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Milton Keynes set to be UK's first Go Ultra Low City

Date: 31 July 2017   |   Author: Debbie Wood

Opening its doors to the public for the first time in Milton Keynes on 22 July is the UK's first multibrand EV showroom, triggering the start of an ambitious five-year plan for the city, which has set out to be the first Go Ultra Low City in the UK.

The EV Experience Centre is one of the flagship initiatives that form part of a £9.0-million pot won by Milton Keynes in the Go Ultra Low City scheme. The five-year plan will also see £2.3 million invested in local infrastructure, including the creation of two rapid-charging hubs - another first of its kind for the UK - as well as provide funding for street-charging schemes, free charging-point installation at workplaces and green parking-permit initiatives.

By 2022, the goal is to have boosted take-up of plug-in vehicles in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas - within roughly a 15-mile radius - to 23% of all new car registrations, a figure that is currently around just 2%.

Chargemaster is operating the site at Milton Keynes while the UK Government, AA Trust and six manufacturers - BMW, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault and Volkswagen - are founding partners and helping to fund it.

"The largest challenge electric vehicles face at the moment is ignorance. There is so much misinformation out there, and the EV Experience Centre and other initiatives are combating this by providing consumers with impartial and accurate information to help them see how easily an electric vehicle could fit into their lifestyle," David Martell, the founder and chief executive of Chargemaster, tells BusinessCar.

"Simply telling consumers about electric vehicles isn't enough. Having the opportunity to learn more about them in a no-pressure, non-sales environment helps to demystify the vehicles and the technology. The opportunity to try an electric vehicle is also key to converting consumers into advocates."

Open seven days a week and situated within the Centre:MK shopping centre, a team of 11 work at the showroom and are tasked with educating visitors on the benefits of driving an EV, and offering impartial advice on specific models and the government grants available, as well as the different types of plug-in vehicles and charging options to choose from.

In addition to dealing with the general public, the team will also be proactively engaging with local fleets to help them inform their drivers of EV benefits.

"For drivers paying Benefit-in-Kind tax, fleets clearly need to communicate the cost benefit of switching to electric vehicles to drivers. Fleets also need to reassure drivers that charging requirements can be met at their homes, at the workplace and publicly," says Martell.

Inside the showroom, there are four plug-in vehicles on display, as well as numerous charging points to test and a collection of advice videos available. Visitors can also book a 15-minute accompanied test drive, courtesy of a fleet of ten vehicles waiting outside the shopping centre.

The vehicles on fleet have been bought by the experience centre and, when appropriate, the store will also be able to give drivers the opportunity to hire a plug-in car for a week at a discounted rate so the driver can find out first hand how the car fits within their lifestyle. Total fleet size for the centre is 53 vehicles; however, Chargemaster predicts this figure could grow to 99 vehicles in five years.

"Nobody has ever done anything like this before, so the partners involved in the EV Experience Centre are true pioneers. We hope visitors will leave the centre feeling much more informed about electric vehicles, ultimately wanting one as their next car," Martell explains.

Brian Matthews, head of transport innovation at Milton Keynes Council, states, "The EV Experience Centre is a centrepiece of our thrust to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles and is a good example of the innovation that Milton Keynes is using to lead the way in transport innovation. We are delighted to be working with Chargemaster and six founding car manufacturers to bring this about."