SOME electric car charging points in the North-East have been used so little each re-charge has cost the taxpayer up to £4,000, The Northern Echo can reveal.
Two charging points in County Durham have been used just twice since they were installed between 2010 and 2013, putting the cost of each re-charge at between £2,800 and £4,000.
The figures emerged as Durham County Council started charging for its 31 previously free-to-use points yesterday (Monday, June 23).
Independent councillor John Shuttleworth condemned the authority as wasteful and incompetent, but Liberal Democrat Mark Wilkes said he hoped pushing the technology would encourage more people to buy electric cars.
Adrian White, the council’s head of transport and contract services, said it was committed to supporting electric vehicles, to cut carbon emissions and support a North-East “growth industry”.
Global car giant Nissan manufactures its Leaf electric car in the region at Washington, where it employs 7,000 people, and sales are growing rapidly.
Since the installation of one ‘rapid’ and 30 regular charging points across County Durham between 2010 and 2013, they have been used 2,937 times.
However, nine have been used on less than ten occasions and two, at Sniperley and Belmont park-and-ride sites, have been used just twice.
Car park points on Consett’s Albert Road and Stanley’s Scott Street have each been used four times.
In contrast, the County Hall facility has been used 544 times and the Belmont park-and-ride rapid charger 422 times.
Of the £5,000 installation cost of each point, the council paid half, or later a quarter, with grant funding covering the rest.
Additionally, the council paid the £600 to £3,000 it cost to connect each point to the electricity grid, bringing the council’s total bill to £81,000.
The council says charging £1-a-go for its 30 standard points and £5 for the rapid point will help cover their maintenance costs, around £200 per point per year, and encourage drivers to only use the bays when charging their vehicle.
Cllr Shuttleworth said: “The council uses the concept of electric cars and charging points as a smoke screen to hide the waste in both resources and facilities it creates together with incompetence throughout the organisation.”
But Cllr Wilkes said: “I am fully supportive of this particularly given that thousands of jobs across the North-East, particularly at Nissan, are protected with the production of the Nissan Leaf.
“Hopefully, by pushing this technology more and more people will decide to buy an electric car and help cut pollution.”
Mr White said: “With electric cars still relatively in their infancy it is not surprising that some points are yet to see more usage.
“The use of the posts has increased in the last year and, as the use of electric cars continues to grow, we would expect to see all points used more in the future.”
Elsewhere in the region, Sunderland – the home of Nissan – has 50 points, which were used 2,544 times last year.
In Darlington, where there are four points, a spokeswoman said demand was low.
North Yorkshire County Council has not installed any points, although there are several in York and Harrogate has won a government grant and is trying to secure match funding.
Northumberland, which has 18 points, is introducing a £5 charge for its eight rapid points from July 1.