A fleet of new low-cost, low-carbon cars will be available for North East residents and businesses to hire following the expansion of the Co-wheels car club.

The 20 vehicles – eight of which will run solely on electric power – will be located in areas across the North East with most available to hire from April 1.

The move follows a successful bid by the North East Combined Authority (neca), Co-wheels and Nexus which resulted in £260,000 funding being awarded by Carplus, via the Department of Transport, to expand the Co-wheels car club in the region.

Cllr Nick Forbes, transport lead for the North East Combined Authority, said: “Ensuring people have access to reliable and convenient transport options – whether for work, study or social reasons – is an absolute priority and the Co-wheels car club is helping towards achieving this.

“We’re very pleased to have secured funding to expand Co-wheels, which will benefit residents as well as making a contribution to more sustainable travel in our area.”

The scheme will see five new Co-wheels cars launched in North Tyneside as well as four in Newcastle, three in Gateshead, two in Durham, two in Northumberland and four in Sunderland.

Co-wheels is a social enterprise and the UK’s only independent car club operator, aiming to reduce the environmental impact of driving.

By enabling people to hire a shared vehicle by the hour on a pay-as-you-go basis car ownership can be reduced and, when people do drive, the environmental impact is limited through the use of electric and low emission vehicles.

The cars are located in convenient places, including on-street bays and places close to bus and Metro stations.

Those who sign up for membership of the car club in the North East by the end of March will be offered £20 worth of free driving time.

North Tyneside’s Cllr John Harrison, vice chair of Transport North East Committee, said: “I’m pleased that car club is being extended across the North East and I’d encourage people to find out more about it.

“It will complement the public transport we already have in the region and is an excellent way to help cut road congestion, reduce the impact car emissions have on the environment and save residents money.”

Liz Gray, northern regional manager for Co-wheels, said: “We are excited to see this rapid expansion of an already successful car club across new locations in the North East.

“From our head office in Durham we have expanded from two cars available in our home city to running a fleet of over 500 across the UK.

“The North East is a key focus for our continued expansion and we look forward to welcoming more businesses and residents to the scheme.”

Details of where Co-wheels cars are located and how to become a member of the car club can be found on the website at www.co-wheels.org.uk/northeast.