Ministers launch drive to up electric car use

Motorists in Northern Ireland are being urged to do their pockets and the environment a favour by opting for an electric car.

A pair of Stormont ministers are promoting the use of electric cars after launching the first ever eDrive conference and test drive event.

Regional development minister David Kennedy and environment minister Alex Attwood are hoping the three-day event at Titanic Belfast will raise awareness of so-called ecars among Northern Ireland's drivers.

Mr Kennedy said with two-thirds of vehicle journeys in Northern Ireland being less than five miles, an electric car range of more than 100 meant they were a realistic choice for many businesses and private motorists who were in the market for a replacement vehicle.

Having one of the best ecar infrastructures in Europe made the proposition even more attractive, he said, adding: "By summer this year the majority of us will be no more than 10 miles away from one of 320 standard charge points or 30 miles away from a rapid charger."

As well as the cars' environmental benefits, the minister pointed out that they have low running costs, are exempt from road fund licences and are supported by a £5,000 Government grant to help with the initial purchase.

He said the event promised "something for everyone" from those interested in the environment to motorists who follow the latest trends in vehicle technology.

Mr Kennedy added: "Business users, private motorists and our next generation of drivers can for the first time come together in one place to hear industry experts discuss the benefits of the latest cutting edge vehicle developments and how they can help protect our environment now and in the future."

Mr Attwood said with transport one of the biggest generators of greenhouse gas emissions in Northern Ireland, the use of electric cars - ideally powered by electricity from renewable sources -- could play an important role in helping to improve air quality and meet climate change targets.

He said: "Electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are an essential part of the transition towards a low-carbon economy. With the charging infrastructure in place, the increasing numbers of models coming to market, and the low running costs that they offer, the purchase of electric vehicles will become even more attractive to both individuals and companies."

The eDrive event is free with Friday's concluding day open to all and visitors able to book a test drive in one of the ecars on show.

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