Electric dreams

Manchester’s revving up for a green revolution with 300 plug-in charging points for electric cars.

By Manchester's Finest | January 29th '11

Together in Electric Dreams?

As you stroll through the city this summer, chances are you’ll come across one of the 300 new charging points being installed across the region to boost electric car use. Hailed as a ‘green revolution’ by transport chiefs, is this the jump-start Manchester needs to curb its carbon emissions?

Fighting for the title of ‘Green City’ status, Manchester’s leaders have taken bold sweeps in painting a low-carbon vision for the region, launching an ambitious action plan to cut current emissions from 3.2 million tonnes each year to less than 2 million by 2020.

Among the region’s guiltiest carbon culprit is transport, which has prompted new ways of powering Manchester’s vehicles. In 2007, Metrolink became the first tram network in the UK to be supplied entirely by renewable energy. Two years later, Manchester Airport became the first airport in the UK to be awarded the prestigious Carbon Trust Standard.

Now, it seems, electric cars are the next chapter in Manchester’s green pages, according to the coalition at least: touted by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond as “the start of something big”, last December saw his department announce a £3.6 million grant to fund hundreds of new ‘park and plug’ points across the region.

This January saw a further deal sweetener for ‘ecommuters’ in the form of £5,000 grants on 9 or 10 approved models, which mass market manufacturers are rolling out over the next few of years, including Citroen, Mitsubishi and Nissan. All this is part of a bigger plan to improve inner-city air quality, slashing emissions by 40% or more, as well as giving the car industry a kick up the commercial behind.

As the only city region in the UK to receive such funding from the national Plugged-In Places scheme, Manchester’s transport and environment bosses are now working up plans to bring the super sockets to areas like the Trafford Centre, MediaCity, Oldham and Stockport, as well as major routes into and around the city centre.

But for all the hype – with star-spangled endorsement from Jade Jagger, Jonathan Ross and, err, Boris Johnson – only 55 electric cars were sold in the UK in 2009. Perhaps people were holding off until the five-grand subsidy came through; the coalition is certainly hoping this is the case, as it expects 8,600 electric cars to be sold during 2011. And while running costs are said to be as low as a penny per mile, and are exempt from road tax, the cars do come with a hefty price tag in comparison to normal vehicles.

So, as the city wages war against the invisible enemy, a significant, possibly cynical, question mark remains over the introduction of the charging points –  is this really the start of something big for Manchester, or is the case for convenience still unanswered? By the end of this year, we’ll find out whether this sparked the so-called ‘green revolution’, or if it just leaves our batteries flat.

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