Fancy test driving an e-car?

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COLERAINE Borough Council has been investigating ways to support local businesses in the borough.

One such opportunity identified with central government are ecars, which aim to reduce costs of running a vehicle while helping the local environment.

This pilot is being showcased throughout Northern Ireland by the Department of Regional Development partnered with the Department of Environment. Council will be hosting an information day in Coleraine, where businesses and members of the public can speak to professionals direct about the cars and have a closer look at what’s available.

Council’s environmental services and economic development departments are working together to hold an information session with an opportunity to test drive an ecar at Cloonavin in Coleraine on Wednesday, February 12 and is open to business owners and members of the public.

Ecar has introduced an electric vehicle charging infrastructure with over 160 electric vehicle charging points installed in many towns and cities across Northern Ireland, some of which are already in the borough.

To support the purchase and running costs of ecar, the government is providing a number of grant opportunities. A grant can be accessed to reduce the initial costs of purchasing an ecar, as well as a grant of up to £1,500 to install a charging point in a workplace or in the home. This is the first project of its kind in Northern Ireland.

The majority of electric vehicles available today have a range of 60-100 miles per charge, with electric commercial vehicles ranging up to 150 miles per charge. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have a range of up to 300-400 miles depending on the make and model.

It costs approximately around £2 to fully charge an electric vehicle and can take up to eight hours to fully charge.

This would usually take place overnight using a home or workplace charge point. Standard public charge points will fully charge in around six hours, whereas a rapid charge point will reduce the charging time to only 20-30 minutes.

The benefits to the environment are immense, with no tail-pipe CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions, the electric car is a step towards a cleaner and more sustainable future. Pure electric vehicles do not use petrol or diesel. With fuel costs being a cause of concern to many, the switch to electric vehicles is becoming more appealing.

Ecar is part of the UK-wide scheme called Plugged in Places (PIP) which provides government funding to regions that want to bring charging points to their area. There are also other ‘Plugged in Places’ schemes operating around the United Kingdom and with ambassadors such as actor Leonardo DiCaprio and business tycoon Richard Branson this is now becoming a permanent fixture for the future.

Essentially the electric motor replaces the petrol or diesel engine supporting a cleaner environment. Electric vehicles currently available in Northern Ireland start at £25,000 depending on the model, after the £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant is applied. However, new electric vehicles are expected on the market imminently, with prices starting at around £13,500 (including grant).

The attraction for businesses is the reduction in running costs compared to current vehicles, resulting in 80% less than a petrol or diesel equivalent. Costs are also reduced with electric vehicles being exempt from paying fuel duty, vehicle excise duty, company car tax, van benefit charge and fuel benefit charge.

Electric vehicles have enhanced capital allowances benefits with a 100 per cent first-year allowance. Businesses can relieve the entire cost of an electric car or van against taxable profits in the year of acquisition. This is definitely a plus point for any business.

The Office for Low Emissions offers a 25% grant for the purchase of an electric car - up to £5,000, and a 20% grant for the purchase of an electric van - up to £8,000.

All of these opportunities are there for the taking to save money and ultimately take care of the environment. The ecar is here to stay and Coleraine will be supporting ecars in the Borough. Further details on the information event to be hosted in Cloonavin will follow - watch this space.