Council consider five e-car charging stations

BALLYMONEY Borough Council is considering joining the E-car Project and allowing the installation of five charge points for electric cars.

Costing Council £10,000 to join, the ‘Plug in Places’ scheme is only available until March 2013 and will benefit the borough attracting eco-friendly tourists and visitors to the town while helping to reduce environmentally harmful emissions.

The issue was raised during a recent Council meeting when Mr Gregor Kerr, Department Regional Development, Transportation Unit gave a presentation to councillors outlining government targets to reduce emissions, the benefits of the scheme as well as the future increase in electric car ownership.

Mr Kerr explained that ‘transport contributes to over 25% of CO2 emissions in NI’ and that ‘Northern Ireland has been awarded £1.6million ‘Plugged In Places’ funding’ to urgently reduce emissions and hit government targets.

He outlined that the Department for Regional Development, Department of Environment, Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE), ESB ecars (in RoI), Power NI, Donnelly Motor Group and 18 Northern Ireland Councils including Coleraine, Limavady and Ballymena had already joined the scheme. Moyle District Council however had refused to join.

He continued: “There are three types of charge points: one for home/work which takes around six to eight hours to charge a car fully, fast public chargers which can take one to six hours and finally rapid chargers which can full 80% of a car in 20 minutes.

“If Council agrees to join the Project at a cost of £10,000, our aim would be to install a minimum of five fast public chargers in Ballymoney. Each charger costs £11,000 which is a capital investment to this area of £55,000. However this introductory scheme is only available until March 2013.

“Councillors know their area therefore we would be taking advice from them as to where to install the chargers ie potential locations could be in Ballymoney: NIR Park and Ride, Trolans, Townhead and Castle Street plus ones in Ballybogey, Rasharkin and Dunloy.”

He continued to highlight the benefits of installing such chargers including attracting eco-tourists to Ballymoney, shoppers with electric cars as well as simply boosting the infrastructure, embracing the future plus helping to protect the environment.

Before opening the floor, Mr Kerr revealed their three year delivery plan for Northern Ireland which included Year 1 (11/12) - 40 x Standard Public 22kW CP’s and 3 x Rapid 50kW CP’s, Year 2 (12/13) 120 x Standard Public 22kW CP’s and 11 x Rapid 50kW CP’s as well as Year 1 & 2 - 1 x CPMS (vehicle charging data, open access roaming in N/S, ecar Access Cards, ecar payment System etc.).

“Our progress to date in Year 1: 41 Standard/Fast Charging Points (double-headed – 82 Charge points), 3 Rapid Charge Posts on M1, M2, A1 & Newry

Charge Point Management System and Payment System in development,” he stated.

“Year 2: Expansion to new Council areas with min. 5 CP’s in each Council area, 120 Public CPs to be installed in Oct 2012 – March 2013 and 11 Rapid CPs. Plus moving across the boarder, a further 1500 Public Charge Points with 500 in Dublin & County, 135 in Cork and 45 in Limerick, Galway and Waterford (at least one charging point for every town with 1500+ population), 30+ Rapid Chargers on all major inter urban route

or every 60 km and 2,000 Domestic Chargers.”

He outlined that under the scheme a £1,500 grant was also available to anyone with an electric car to buy a home charger.

In response Cllr Tom McKeown asked what the saving would be compared to fuel costs.

Mr Kerr said that to fully charge an electric car for 100miles would cost around £2 which was the equivalent to £10 of diesel. He also made councillors aware of the maintenance savings: “It costs around £50 for a standard service of an electric car due to there being few parts.”

Alderman Frank Campbell questioned if there were ‘any existing plug in points in Ballymoney as I’ve been told there’s one in Trolans”.

Mr Kerr reply ‘no’ and explained that the nearest point was at Maxol Garage in Portrush which had a successful fast public charger. He added that Trolans had already asked for a charge point.

Cllr John Finlay highlighted that he was ‘aware that this is the future’ explaining that when he was over in Paris for the Twinning it was the norm.

He continued: “I know it’s environmentally good but I’m just concerned about the overall savings ie batteries are expensive so there are no savings at all in buying an electric car.”

Mr Kerr stated that studies had shown that electric cars are cheaper overall: “They are expensive to buy at the minute but they are cheaper to run and maintain. The car industry is taking the whole thing very seriously and understand the importance of it. Makers are producing new models all the time and hopefully over time cars will come down in price.”

Alderman Harry Connolly asked about the length of time a car would take to fully charge and in response Mr Kerr said: “It depends on the size of the battery and type of car. From public charge points its normally 4/6 hours or 20 minutes from a Rapid charger however most people would half charge their vehicle ie top it up. So say you went shopping in Ballymoney, you would park at a charge point (two cars for each charger), plug it in and swipe your card. When you came back you’d swipe your card again, unplug and drive off.”

Addressing the issue Cllr Cathal McLaughlin asked: “£2 to fill up, what happens on a dark cold winter morning when you have the lights, wipers and heater on - will it go down faster?”

Mr Kerr said there was ‘no big difference in the cold’ adding that air conditioners do use up more power however lights and wipers don’t.

Cllr Anita Cavlan questioned what would happen if ‘you ran out of battery on a country lane?’

Mr Kerr said: ‘you would call for the breakdown truck’ continuing: “Most electric cars are sold with RAC warranty which would cover that problem. They would have a portable charger which could top you up to get to the nearest charger point.”

Following a question from mayor Cllr Evelyne Robinson about installing more than the five points afterwards, Mr Kerr said that the £10,000 scheme was an introductory project which would end in March and was aimed at getting areas started. He outlined: “If they were in big demand and you want more then it would become a commercial decision”.

Cllr Robinson suggested that as a ‘commercial decision’, there could be a ‘increase in cost and no longer be only £2 to fill up?’.

Mr Kerr agreed however highlighted that ‘NI electricity would regulate costs’ however ‘it would be up to the private businesses what to charge’.

Cllr Ian Stevenson asked if electric farm machinery was the future but Mr Kerr explained that this was ‘not in the near future due to physical challenges put on machinery would be too much for a battery’.

Answering a number of other questions Mr Kerr concluded that electric cars could travel up speeds of 100 miles and were priced between around £14,000 and £30,000 and more.