A NETWORK of electric car charging points has been fitted in 11 Oxford car parks, allowing green-minded drivers to recharge free.

Electric car users can now plug their vehicles into the 20 public recharging points in city centre and park-and ride-car parks in Oxford.

The network will be linked to a ‘sister’ network in Milton Keynes so drivers can charge their cars in either location.

Last night, green campaigners welcomed the move.

Lois Muddiman, trustee of environmental group Low Carbon West Oxford, said: “We would support any initiative that goes any way to make low carbon living easier and more possible.

“This sounds like it is making electric car driving more convenient.

“When it comes to the time when I have to replace my car, I will certainly be looking at the option of an electric or hybrid car, or not having a car at all.”

David Densley, head of sustainable transport for Southern Electric Power Distribution (SEPD), which installed the re-charging points, said: “This is the first network of its kind to be installed in the area and can be used by anyone driving an electric vehicle.

“As well as being a practical resource for people already using such cars, we hope they will spark people’s interest in electric transport and the environmental benefits it could bring in the future.”

The 32 amp points have been installed as part of the Cowley-built Mini E electric car project, running in the Thames Valley, led by BMW and involving a number of organisations including Oxford Brookes University, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council.

Scientists at the Headington-based university have worked out the new electric Mini could save up to £1,400 on the cost of fuel over a year.

The cars have a range of 155 miles per battery charge and cost less than 2p per mile.

Drivers can use the points to ‘top up’ their electric vehicles for free while they are out and about, but they must register with the scheme operator Chargemaster.

The car battery can be fully re-charged in three hours.

There are at least 40 Mini E cars being driven in and around the city. It is not known how many other electric cars are owned, though manufacturers say there is a growing market.

Two groups of local volunteers have been testing out the prototype Mini E for six months at a time, while experts test the psychological, social and technical aspects of using the cars.

Dave Edney, from Wheatley, uses his electric car to drive to his office in Yarnton.

He said: “The new public charging points mean people can drive into Oxford in their electric cars, plug them in to charge and then spend the day shopping here. You can now go further afield in an electric car and that has to be good.”