College fleet creates a buzz

Mandy Exley with one of the four Mitsubishi cars being tested

Mandy Exley with one of the four Mitsubishi cars being tested

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a FLEET of electric cars is to be trialled at colleges and council offices in the Lothians.

Four of the cars and a series of charging points are to be located at Jewel & Esk’s campuses in Edinburgh and Dalkeith, at Stevenson College’s Sighthill campus, and at Midlothian Council’s headquarters, also in Dalkeith.

Employees of the colleges and council will use the cars for work journeys as part of a study to explore their potential.

Students and staff from Jewel & Esk College, which is leading the year-long initiative, will gather information to find out how long the cars can run on one charge, how cost effective they are, how they perform in different conditions, and what drivers think of them.

The college’s director of innovation and enterprise, Professor Steve Tinsley said: “Because staff move between the campuses on a regular basis, instead of using their own cars or another company car, they can use an electric car.

“It’s open to all staff and we hope to have students on board as well. There is a lot of interest, particularly in the industry, but also people like you and I who might want to purchase a car have lots of questions – how long does the battery last, and so on.”

He said the college would hold regular workshops with local businesses and community groups to see what kind of information they wanted to find out about the cars.

Having driven one himself, he added: “It’s brilliant, the only thing that you have to get used to is the lack of sound – it’s so peaceful, but because we’re all used to a lot of audio input when we’re driving, that’s missing. But apart from that, it’s a nice experience.”

The i-MiEV cars used in the trial have been supplied by Mitsubishi, with the four charging points provided by Siemens. It is hoped that the collaboration will also help Jewel & Esk develop its centre for excellence in renewable energy and low-carbon technologies. Phoenix Mitsubishi is to fund scholarships at the college, with Siemens currently in discussions about further links.

College principal Mandy Exley said: “This exciting project links the college firmly to electric vehicle technology in the long term.

“It aims to raise awareness of electric vehicles and their potential. With petrol and diesel costs rising and greater environmental know-how, drivers are looking at alternatives and will be interested if the cars are cost-effective to run and easy to charge. We want to hold seminars and training programmes to ensure this project raises awareness of best practice around electric vehicle technology.”

The project, which was launched this morning, has also received £25,000 from South East of Scotland Transport Partnership, or SEStran, with some additional funding from Midlothian Council.

sgyford@edinburghnews.com