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A green power network on the UK’s motorways means new horizons for battery cars.

Think electric car, and what you probably see is a nippy vehicle in a quirky colour being parked with expert precision and zero revs in a tiny space in a crowded city. But recharging points at service stations up and down the UK’s motorways could change this vision altogether. Launched this summer by renewable power company Ecotricity, it’s being called the world’s first national electric highway, offering drivers a free low-carbon top-up for their batteries in the time it takes to drink a cappuccino. Now picture a sleek sedan cruising up the M1 for a weekend in the Dales…

Until now, an understandable fear of getting stranded has made drivers highly cautious about taking longer journeys in an plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (EV). This so-called ‘range anxiety’ issue has been a major brake on their take-up. It has also seen EVs stereotyped as suited only to short urban hops – though it’s worth noting that 99.6% of all UK car journeys are less than 100 miles, which is within – or only a little above – the range of most modern EVs.

Using the new motorway recharging network sounds like simplicity itself. You register online with Ecotricity for a free swipecard to access the charging points, which can be found at a growing number of Welcome Break service stations. South Mimms on the M25 was the first, and all 27 will have them by 2013. A fast top-up can take around 20 minutes or there’s a full charge available if you’ve got two hours, a more likely option for those enjoying a lazy lunch. The regular three-pin slow charge socket is an option for those on an overnight stopover.

Welcome Break’s CEO Rod McKie is right behind the initiative which, he calculates, could help his customers make big savings on fuel. The network itself is free to use, and home-charging works out at just over 1p a mile. “A driver doing a year’s typical 8,500 miles of motoring could save almost £1,000 in petrol costs at today’s prices”, he calculates, “and around two tonnes in CO2 emissions.”

Read the entire article at: Green Futures

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