THE first public electric car charging points will be installed in Southampton today, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Four hi-tech charging bays will be switched on at the NCP car park in Portland Terrace on Tuesday.

A dozen more will follow at WestQuay shopping centre, Southampton Airport, and Waitrose in Portswood.

Private firm Chargemaster intends to expand its Polar electric vehicle charging network to 40 bays in the city by the end of next year.

The charge points, costing 95p a go with a £20 monthly subscription, will juice up electric cars for up to 100 miles of driving compared with around £16 for 100 miles in an equivalent petrol or diesel car.

However as it would take between three to seven hours to charge a flat battery, the points will largely be used as top-up points while shopping.

There are already more than 80 charging bays within an hour’s driving time of Southampton, with new bays planned for Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Eastleigh and other south coast cities.

Unlike Portsmouth and Brighton, Southampton has no public recharge points, but this scheme – and others in the pipeline – could soon make it the electric car capital of the south coast.

Southampton City Council plans to install an additional ten public charge points around the city over the next five years under its £29m street lights contract with Scottish and Southern Energy.

David Martell, chief executive of Chargemaster, said: “It is great that towns like Southampton are keen to promote technologies that allow drivers to take advantage of low carbon motoring.

“With the Polar network spanning towns across the South coast, it is easier for electric cars to be used every day – for work, domestic and leisure trips.”

The Polar initiative is supported by Nissan, who have already chosen Southampton as one of the key towns in the UK to launch its Leaf electric car. The Government subsidised tax-free cars went on sale in Southampton in March for £25,990.

Phil Potts, at West Way Nissan in Redbridge, welcomed the public charging network.

He said: “It makes electric motoring far more viable, enabling drivers to use their car on longer journeys with a certainty that there is somewhere to recharge the battery.”

It is estimated that as few as one in a thousand cars in the Southampton region are currently electric.

Councillor Daniel Fitzhenry, Cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “Sustainable and electric vehicles are the future and we must encourage them and make sure we have the infrastructure to sustain them.

“We will continue to support business initiatives like this to create even more in the city.

Southampton is already a leader in many sustainable fields, such as our geothermal heating network, and there is no reason why we should not be a leader in green travel as well.”

Southampton mayor Councillor Terry Matthews was switching on the charging bays today.