A RENEWABLES company is plugging a ‘black hole’ in the Lake District’s electric car network by installing dozens of new charge points around the county.

The eco-plan has been hailed as ‘jump-starting’ the area’s long-awaited ‘green transport revolution’ to cut harmful emissions.

With only 10 charge points in Cumbria and just a handful in the Lakes, electric car owners have been put off using the vehicles due to ‘battery anxiety’ – the fear of running out of power.

But tourism chiefs are now expecting to see a surge in electric car use which will help tackle the area’s biggest environmen-tal issue.

A renewable energy firm has won a £50,000 govern-ment grant and expects to install 100 charge points by Christmas.

By the end of the year, a further 12 charge points in the central and southern Lake District will be installed as part of the Go Lakes Travel initiative.

It is part of a campaign to cut thousands of tonnes of harmful C02 carbon-emis-sions from the National Park by 2015.

At present 87 per cent of Cumbria’s 16 million annual visitors arrive by car and use their vehicles to travel around the area.

This week’s news has been welcomed by Kendal-based Friends of the Lake District who called it ‘a very positive step to reducing the impact of increasing motor vehicle traffic on our climate’.

Solway Renewables, the company installing the charge points, has just hooked up the 84-mile route of Hadrian’s Wall.

It wants more Lake District businesses to come forward and get cash help for the £1,000-installation costs and to broaden the network.

Director Suzanne Bur-gess said city-based electric car users expected to find charge points when holidaying in Cumbria.

“Cumbria has been a black hole. There are some 5,000 electric cars and 16,000 hybrid vehicles on the road, but in Cumbria there are limits to where they can go and charge, which is crazy.”

Electric car ownership is taking off with new registrations 11 times up on 2010 and ownership up 70 per cent during the first seven months of 2013, said the Society of Motoring Manufacturers.

Around 60 new models were launched in the last year with global car makers joining the race including Ford, Mercedes, Volvo and Toyota.

Mrs Burgess said: “Prices are tumbling at the moment with electric cars now starting at £11,995 and running costs as low as £1.50 for 100 miles with low carbon emissions. Electric cars aren’t just for the future – they are a viable option for many today.”

Depending on the car type and electricity tariff, the cost of charging can range from free - because it is so cheap - or between £1.40 to £3 for a 100-mile battery life.

From flat, some vehicles take six to eight hours to charge but there are also ‘rapid charge’ options of half-an-hour.

The Department of Transport has already awarded a £6.9 million grant to the Go Lakes Travel initiative and made available a £37 million pot of money nationwide for public sector organisations to create charging points.

A Cumbria consortium is working on a bid for submission in October involving the Lake District National Park Authority, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria County Council.

The Langdale Hotel and Spa has been an early electric car champion – it offers two for hire at its resort under the Go Lakes Travel project.

Nick Lancaster, director of resort operations, said the public’s appetite and interest in electric cars was high but some were put off by battery anxiety.

“The way to get more electric cars in use is to get a decent infrastructure in the county. It’s bringing about a change in people.”

Richard Greenwood, of Cumbria Tourism said: “It’s fabulous news. We are now creating the right environment to travel in electric cars.”

Today (Thursday) a new charge point was installed at Tythebarn House at Holme – a converted barn B&B run by Vic and Diana Brown. Ten minutes drive from Junction 36 of the M6, Mrs and Mrs Brown believe the family run business is a strategic top-up point for drivers heading from the cities.

Mr Brown said: “I am delighted to be in at the start of a transport revo-lution. Providing private recharging points for battery cars allows the concept of green tourism to gather speed without huge infrastructure costs.”

Alistair Kirkbride, of the Lake District National Park Authority, said there was a fleet of low carbon hire cars available in the Lakes.

“By having more charge points you increase the likelihood of people using them,” said Mr Kirkbride.