THE North-East will play a major role in driving forward £37m plans to increase UK electric car production.

The Government yesterday revealed plans to create more public charging points and cut home charging costs by 75 per cent to boost the eco-car industry.

It comes as Sunderland car maker Nissan prepares to start production on its all-electric Leaf hatchback and Gateshead College works on a multi-million investment to build a centre of excellence to develop low carbon vehicles (LCV) and link it to the UK’S only LCV performance track.

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The plans were unveiled by Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, during a visit to Gateshead College’s Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation, and have been welcomed by a leading vehicle recharging network founded in the North-East.

Mr McLoughlin, who toured Nissan’s production line, said the investment showed the Government was committed to making the UK a world leader in the electric car industry.

He said: “Plug-in vehicles can help the consumer by offering a good driving experience and low running costs. They can help the environment by cutting pollution, and, most importantly of all, they can help the British economy by creating skilled manufacturing jobs in a market that is bound to get bigger.”

Under the plans, the Government will make £13.5m available to provide 75 per cent grants for homeowners wanting to install a domestic chargepoint, give £11m to local authorities to install onstreet chargers, and use £9m to pay for chargepoints at railway stations.

Dr Colin Herron, a low carbon vehicle specialist and managing director of the UK’s largest vehicle recharging network, Charge Your Car, which was launched in the North-East as Plugged in Places, said the proposals were a positive step for the electric car network.

He said: “It is imperative charge points are at home, on streets, in workplaces and on main routes.

“These new measures should help the UK to develop as a fully interconnected electric vehicleready country ready for the surge in take up which will happen over the next few years.”

John Martin, Nissan’s senior vice president for manufacturing in Europe, said: “We are at a crossroads in personal mobility and are delighted the Government shares our commitment to the transport of the future, with Sunderland already at the forefront of electric vehicle technology.”