MP says chargers slowing the success of the Nissan Leaf

NISSAN’S electric car workforce is being undermined by a failed Government vehicle recharging scheme which would see motorists take “days to get from Newcastle to London”.

David Cameron at the launch of the Nissan Leaf in Sunderland
David Cameron at the launch of the Nissan Leaf in Sunderland

NISSAN'S electric car workforce is being undermined by a failed Government vehicle recharging scheme which would see motorists take "days to get from Newcastle to London".

Ministers have been accused of a catalogue of failures in their efforts to roll out the nationwide series of electric vehicle charging points seen as vital to ensuring motorists have the confidence to buy a Nissan Leaf.

The lack of a national charging system, slow charging points and a failure to offer the right incentives, are just some of the problems holding back the industry, opposition MPs have warned.

Production of the Leaf started in February shortly after Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced new measures to support the industry including £11m for councils to put in charging points and extra cash for similar devices in train stations.

But now Louise Ellman, the Labour chair of the transport select committee, has warned the Government it will not meet its target of seeing “tens of thousands” of electric vehicles on the roads by 2015.

She pointed out the potentially damaging consequences of the Treasury’s decision to scrap some financial incentives for electric vehicles revealed in last year’s Budget.

And, she said, motorists are also being held back by time delays, as the vast majority of power points that have been installed charge over a period of several hours.

Charging points that can recharge a car in minutes are much more expensive and, as a result, less common, Ms Ellman said.

“It would take considerable planning and a number of days to drive a plug-in vehicle from London to Newcastle, and that inevitably has an impact on the purchaser,” she argued during a House of Commons debate. That list of drawbacks was further compounded by a warning that the £11m handed over by the Department for Transport for charging points on major roads would have little impact after it was spread out among “152 highways authorities”.

Ms Ellman added: “It will also mostly fund the cheaper slow-charge points, especially as the Government will cover only up to 75% of the cost.”

Last night, she was backed by Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson.

She said: “Nissan is a great North East success story and an asset to the whole UK economy. However, the Government must do more to support the growth and highly-skilled jobs that Nissan provides.

“The Government’s decision to cut support for a national network two years ago was both damaging and short sighted. A greater number of quick-charge points are needed to support the sector, give consumers confidence and increase the number of electric vehicles on the road.”

Transport Minister Norman Baker has defended the Government’s support, saying the £11m to cover 75% of costs was “a pretty generous contribution”. He added: “It should not be too high, because if it were 100%, people would ask for charge points without any intention of using them. There has to be a buy-in on both sides and 75% is about right for the contribution made.

“It was suggested that £11m would not go far enough. Let us see what the response from local authorities is.

“If we are overwhelmed by local authorities, we will reconsider spending for the budget covering this area.”

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