It was announced in September 2014 that Basingstoke Council would be installing the town’s first public charging point for electric cars sometime before the end of the year. Due to be located in the Central Car park on Red Lion Lane, the rapid charger will allow for owners of electric cars to pull in and get a quick re-charge of the batteries whilst out and about around town.
So, does this new move mean that we’re on the verge of a wave of petrol-free vehicles emerging onto the streets of Basingstoke?
Well, in the short term it seems unlikely – if similar schemes in other cities and towns are anything to go by. An article in the Guardian in May 2014 reported that the charging point installed in Irlam, Manchester in 2013 had been used only once in twelve months. Those Basingstoke locals who are in possession of an electric car, it would seem, might not be faced with a long queue to get charged up then.
However, this might be a somewhat misleading factor.
Whilst it’s true that electric car ownership remains low, in fact the UK has one of the lowest numbers in Europe, one of the reasons for this low uptake has been the lack of charging points in public areas. Most electric cars on the market claim a range of 60-100 miles before requiring a re-charge, although once you factor in the use of heating / air conditioning or listening to the radio as you drive, this could be as low as 50 miles. Which means that many a journey can descend into fretfulness as the miles rack up.
With councils such as Basingstoke installing new charging points it could, stressing the word could, encourage more to look at the electric option; if only as an around town run-around car.
Indeed, while there are still only 100 public charging points across England and Wales those numbers are rising and accessibility getting greater; Fleet Service station on the M4, Membury Services on the M4 and the Popham Little Chef on the A303 also now having charging points in the region.
So maybe things are changing then?
Whilst the short term view would clearly be that electric cars remain few and far between, there is certainly growing evidence that maybe the longer term outlook will show that electric power will gain greater prevalence on the roads of our towns. With the UK Government offering grants for charging points to local authorities, such as the case in Basingstoke (75% paid for by the Government, 25% by Nissan) and with year on year figures showing an increase in electric car sales in the UK then the trend does seem to indicate that Britain is slowly buying into the idea that these types of vehicle have a viability.
Indeed, recent figures show that there are now over 10,000 electric cars on the road in the UK with sales which represents a huge increase in just a handful of years. And with major, high-end brands such as BMW showcasing their own electric cars with the kind of glossy marketing you’d expect from such a company then the strong likelihood is that these numbers will rise again in the coming months and years.
Electric cars have a certain niche in which they fit; their limited range meaning they will be short journey vehicles. However, for many this is exactly the kind of vehicle they require and there does tend to a zeal to the enthusiasm of many owners.
And, as technology improves the longevity of the batteries and with towns such as Basingstoke leading the way in terms of increased access to power, then maybe the future of city driving will yet feature strong representation from the electric brigade.