Sunderland's bid to be centre of electric car revolution

Cllr Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council, charges the LEAF electric car. Credit: Sunderland City Council

The Government is investing £500m to persuade more drivers to switch to electric cars as part of efforts to reduce emissions.

Sunderland is one of the UK’s leading cities helping to create the best conditions for electric vehicle drivers to use and charge their cars easily.

There are now more than 50 charging points across the borough. The infrastructure ranges from a network of charging points across the city centre to those installed in places like Herrington Country Park.

The latest Government investment will provide money between next year and 2020 for cities planning incentives for motorists to make the switch to electric cars.

The plans include £32m to boost the current charging infrastructure, to end what is considered one of the major hurdles to electric car adoption – charging anxiety.

“We have a good network of charging points across the city and we’ve now updated our website with more user-friendly information about electric motoring and a map showing drivers where they can charge their cars across Sunderland. By making people aware that the infrastructure is in place to support them, we hope to encourage more drivers to make the change. We are very lucky with our location next to Nissan and we are seeing an increasing number of electric cars on our roads already. It’s set to become much bigger in the next few years. But it is a chicken and egg situation. We are providing these charging points at good locations but we need to raise awareness of their availability and how to use them.”

Encouraging greater use of low emission vehicles is part of Sunderland City Council’s strategy to become the UK’s national hub for the low carbon economy. In addition to jobs provided by the production of the Nissan Leaf in Sunderland, the city is also pioneering a number of new initiatives.

The University of Sunderland’s Institute for Automotive and Manufacturing Advanced Practice (AMAP) is leading international research in the sector, and last week saw the opening of the Future Technology Centre - a £4.5m investment by Gateshead College and the Government's Regional Growth Fund to provide facilities for research and development in the low carbon vehicle industry in Sunderland.

The city’s A19 Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles Corridor Enterprise Zone, on land owned by the City Council, has already attracted £14 million in investment to create new technologies and jobs.

“Sunderland is leading the way in creating the building blocks for the new low carbon economy. Encouraging people to use electric vehicles is a hugely important part of this and we’re hopeful that once people recognise the infrastructure is in place and know where to find charging points, we will see a rapid growth in electric car usage.”