Oxford charges up new electronic car sharing scheme

Electric car charging at charging point
Environmentalists living in and around a 50-mile radius of Oxford can now opt into the country’s first-ever electric car-sharing scheme. The Ecologist’s Paul Creeney reports

If the number of existing and conventional car sharing schemes in the UK were to double there would be a third less traffic on the country’s roads, where the bill for congestion is already running at £19 billion. And with electric vehicles running at just 15% of the cost of a petrol-fuelled vehicle (the cost of fully charging the battery is often less than £2) Oxford’s pioneering electric car-sharing scheme should help bring the often-resisted concept of a more environmentally friendly electric car more firmly into the mainstream.

The project is a joint venture between the car rental company, Hertz and Chargemaster – the latter being a Europe-wide company specialising in the delivery of car charging points.

Under the new car-sharing scheme, 10 Nissan LEAF electronic cars have been made available for hire for an hourly rate of just £5. The cars can be booked by the hour, the day or the week and can be found in a variety of locations such as university campuses, station car parks and on selected streets.

The LEAFs -  which stands for ‘Leading Environmental Affordable Family’, (and is not related to Linking Environment And Farming LEAF group) – are being hired out as part of the free Hertz ‘On Demand’ service which also allows users who have signed up to join other car sharing clubs throughout Europe, China and the United States.

Michel Taride, President of Hertz International, said: “Electric vehicles (EVs) are fun and exciting to drive, and the growing EV eco-system in Oxford should help encourage their use.”

Cllr John Tanner, of Oxford City Council, said: “This fantastic investment in Oxford’s low-carbon future brings electric cars within reach for thousands of Oxford people. It is excellent news for both local jobs and for the environment.”

There are currently 64 charging points in Oxford, with another 50 planned within the city - and a further 100 within a 50-mile radius - over the next year.

Their installation comes as part of an improvement to the national EV (Electric Vehicle) charging network known as POLAR, which is expected to cover the 100 largest towns and cities within the United Kingdom by next year. Many of the charging points will allow drivers to ‘fast charge’ their cars at a rate twice as fast as the earlier standard chargers, with some offering a ‘rapid charge’ option that can recharge an electronic car battery in 20 minutes. A fully charged battery will usually power a car for around 100 miles, depending on factors such as the size of the battery and whether the radio is switched on.

Car makers are planning the launch of some 29 new kinds of electronic plug-in car and van models within the next 18 months. And with mainstream car companies such as Ford, Vauxhall and Renault releasing their own versions, the car industry predicts that by 2020 one car in every ten sold will run fully or partly on electricity.

Contact: paul.creeney@theecologist.org

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