A SCOTTISH Government consultant has conceded he does not expect people to use electric car charging points being installed at as many as 24 new locations across the Capital.
A partnership led by Edinburgh City Council has been granted £120,000 from Transport Scotland to spend on new public power points for the radical vehicles as part of the Government’s ambitious “electric revolution”.
Charging outlets would be placed within at least every 50 miles on trunk roads in Scotland under proposals to cut vehicle emissions.
However, John Curtis, former head of low carbon vehicles and fuels at Transport Scotland, revealed it would take up to three-and-a-half hours to charge an electric car at one of the 7kW posts set to be installed around Edinburgh.
Detailed plans on where the new outlets will be built will be finalised by June.
Each charging post will cost about £5000 to install, meaning funding will stretch to two dozen new locations.
The points will resemble bollards and be capable of charging two vehicles at a time. Shopping centres, ferry terminals and leisure complexes have been tipped as likely locations.
Mr Curtis admitted: “Honestly, no, I don’t [think they will get used]. But we need to have a safety net to encourage people to buy the electric vehicles in the first place.
“I think that’s what we’d be doing in, for example, Marchmont in Edinburgh. It’s a good example of somewhere that you have residential flats. If you could put the charging points where people naturally park their cars anyway – and can charge them overnight and in the early stages of adoption – that’s a reasonable solution.
“To be honest, electric vehicles are in their infancy and I think it’s going to take a long time before you see Edinburgh covered in purely electric vehicles because the reality is they’re not suitable for everyone.”
A fully charged electric vehicle is capable of lasting about 100 miles.
Public charging points already exist at seven known locations in the Capital, including Our Dynamic Earth on Holyrood Road and the nearby Radisson Blu Hotel.
Private council depots and educational institutions, including Edinburgh College, also have terminals.
City finance and budget committee convener Councillor Alasdair Rankin said: “The council is fully committed to creating a greener transport fleet and we now have ten electric vehicles, three hybrids and 14 charging points.
“We have received further funding from the Scottish Government and are working with our partnership organisations to identify potential sites for publicly accessible charging points throughout the city.”
Mr Curtis said the charging points could be retro-fitted over time into rapid speed terminals capable of powering electric cars in 20 minutes. Rapid charging points cost about £50,000 each compared to the lower-powered 7kW outlets.
Mr Curtis said: “This means slightly bigger boxes, but you could rock up outside your Starbucks for instance, plug in, get a coffee and by the time you come out your car’s charged. That’s what we need to see.
“All the 7kW posts in the world aren’t really going to help if you have to sit there for three-and-a-half hours while your car charges up.”
“I think the issue is that we’ve got to compete against the internal combustion engine, which means we’ve got to have the right equipment.”
The Government has invested £2.6 million into the EV scheme, which will promote free installation of home charging points.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “Scotland has long been at the forefront of world-changing innovation, be it penicillin or television, and I want to ensure we are leading where the rest of the world will soon follow on electric vehicles.”
But Green MSP Alison Johnstone said the small number of power points in Edinburgh was a sign of the “chicken-and-egg nature” of promoting electric cars.
She said more effort should instead be spent on improving public transport and cycling routes.
WHEELS BARELY IN MOTION
WITH more manufacturers now producing electric cars, and more charging points being created across the country, it was hardly surprising that sales picked up in 2012.
The numbers, though still very small, almost doubled on the previous year, and there is expected to be more interest this year with new generation vehicles being put out by BMW, Ford and Tesla Motors.
Despite this growth, and their importance to the Government in tackling climate targets, the sales were still a fraction on traditional cars. While a few thousand vehicles were registered in the UK last year, that doesn’t compare too well with the 1.9 million conventional vehicles sold over the same period.
The industry hopes that newer models, with increased mileage, and more charging points will ultimately see more people choose to go electric – but that is still a long way off.