Concerns over plans to move electric vehicle charging points
ELECTRIC vehicle charging points in the north are set to be removed from areas where they are not regularly used.
ESB, which manages the network, plans to relocate "under-utilised" charge points to areas of "greatest demand".
But some electric vehicle (EV or e-car) owners fear it means rural areas will lose out.
Public charging points were rolled out across Northern Ireland under a multi-million-pound Stormont executive scheme before responsibility was handed over to ESB in 2015.
The electricity company now operates more than 300 free charge points in the north out of about 1,200 across Ireland.
Mark McCall, who helps run the Northern Ireland Electric Vehicle Owners group, said the firm should be ensuring "fair coverage".
"The network is only contracting, but we need it to expand," he said.
"The network was rolled out as far as I'm aware with a lot of government grants. It should be incumbent upon them to give us fair coverage."
The 49-year-old retailer from Ballynahinch said EV owners mainly use home charging points, but the public network is important to "encourage EV take-up".
However, he acknowledged the cost to ESB of managing the charge points and called for fresh Stormont investment.
"Instead of moving them we should be buying new ones," the father-of-two said.
An ESB spokesman said: "In March of this year, representatives from ESB e-cars management team met with the NI EV Owners group, during which we discussed many aspects of the EV charging infrastructure and how we could improve the service that we provide.
"During this discussion, we agreed to relocate a small number of under-utilised charge points to areas where the e-car NI network is under greatest demand.
"We believe that this programme will improve the overall service provided by the network by more closely aligning the supply of EV chargers with actual EV driver charging needs.
"We are finalising details of the charge point relocations and we do not have a timeline on this yet."
NIE owns the network of charge points which are operated on its behalf by ESB, which involves maintenance and contact centre services.
The ESB spokesman added: "This has been the case since July 2015. All of these services are currently provided free of charge to all EV drivers in Northern Ireland.
"ESB e-cars currently absorb all of the costs of operating this network, including electricity costs, and does not receive any funding from public sources."