BUSINESSES heading to the major curtain raiser of the tourism season will be given a chance to check out an electric car - and test drive one.
The bid to turn tourism on to e-cars and convert sceptics starts next month.
Five electric cars are being lined up to show to business people attending the Lakes Hospitality Show event in Grasmere on February 24-25.
The ‘ride and drive’ offer is from Cumbrian firm Solway Renewables, which has been leading the installation of e-charging points across Cumbria.
Cumbria has been seen as a ‘blackhole’ for e-cars due to a shortage of public places where e-car users can plug-in then charge up their vehicles - leading to 'battery anxiety' - the fear their batteries will run out.
While not a problem for people doing local runs, there has been concern that urban visitors expecting to find charging points for granted in Cumbria may run out.
Solway Renewables has been putting in dozens of charge points to build a network across Cumbria. And a handful of forward-thinking tourism businesses have had them installed too.
Other organisations have been involved in the initiative also, from Cumbria Tourism's Go Lakes Travel project and partners like the Lake District National Park Authority and Cumbria County Council.
Solway Renewables director Suzanne Burgess explained: “We’re lucky enough to have a great network of electric car advocates and through those people we’ve been able to bring five electric cars to the trade show at the Daffodil Hotel & Spa.
"What’s really important is that people attending the trade show can not only look at the cars but they are going to be able to get in the car and ride or drive in it.”
“One of the things we’ve been hearing a lot about recently is the emergence of electric car tourism, but is there really an opportunity for this type of tourism in rural Cumbria?
"It’s always difficult to break the chicken and egg cycle of matching supply and demand. How can someone with an electric car visit Cumbria if they can’t be sure of a charge overnight and why would anyone put a charging point in if no-one is going to visit?”
Last year, the company linked Hadrian’s Wall from coast-to-coast. She explained that Newcastle had been building charging infrastructure for two years and had a strong network which encouraged e-car travel.
However, she said those travelling along Hadrian’s Wall had to turn back to the North East to charge - due to the lack of charging points in Cumbria.
“With Cumbria County Council waiting to see if they have been successful with a bid for major charging infrastructure in Cumbria we thought it was the best time to introduce the reality of electric vehicles and explore a few myths at the same time,” said Mrs Burgess.
“When local tourist businesses understand what is available, they’ll perhaps see an opportunity to bring low emission vehicles into Cumbria” she said.
Only recently, an an article about the work of Solway Renewables went online and in the United States.
A Belgian-based tourist congratulated the company on its work and has pledged to make a trip to Cumbria in their brand new Renault Zoe, an e-car.
You can register for the Lakes Hospitality Association Trade Show and ride and drive here http://www.lakeshospitalitytradeshow.co.uk/
For the Go Lakes Travel Project, see http://www.golakes.co.uk/travel/co-wheels.aspx
Read my e-car test drive here: http://goo.gl/i2gMEO