Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Sunday, 13 December 2009

Electric cars are put to the test

The cars being launched in Birmingham
Aston University will be monitoring how the cars are used

The first stage of a government-supported electric car trial has started in the West Midlands.

A total of 340 vehicles will be tested across the UK, 110 of those will be based in Birmingham and Coventry.

The aim of the project is to find out how the cars are used, and when they need charging, to get a better idea of how practical electric cars would be.

An initial 25 Mitsubishi i-MiEV cars have been given out to test drivers in the region.

The remaining ones will be given to drivers, who were specially selected for the trials by Coventry University researchers, throughout next year.

'Seismic shift'

The trial, which is the first of several to take place nationally, is being run by the Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Vehicle Demonstrators (Cabled) consortium.

Aston University in Birmingham will monitor how they are used and what kind of infrastructure, including charging points, might be needed to accommodate widespread use.

Forty electric Minis are also being given out to volunteers taking part in the trial in Oxford.

One of the first test drivers in the West Midlands is motoring expert and former Top Gear presenter Quentin Willson.

He said the project was the start of a "seismic shift in the sort of cars we drive and how we power them".

Cars made by other manufacturers, including Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes Benz/Smart and Tata, will also be tested in the nationwide trials.

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