Leading engineers call for immediate planning in Edinburgh for electric car revolution

New car electric charging stations installed in the car park at FountainPark.

ONE of Scotland’s top engineers has warned of a future power shortage in the Capital unless planning starts now for the electric car revolution.

The Evening News reported last month on concerns the city is yet to be ready if projections come true of the vehicles outselling diesels by 2020.

SP Energy Networks customer service director Guy Jefferson told of a “ticking clock” ahead of a summit next week with city chiefs. “It’s like having lots of petrol stations as we do at the moment but when you draw up to fill up your tank and press the button, nothing comes out,” said Mr Jefferson.

“We can connect these chargers but unless we’ve got capacity behind it, people can’t charge their cars.

“You would have trouble with all appliances in your home being slow – that’s the best way to put it.”

Cost of electric cars dropping and their range increasing to 150 to 200 miles poses a “perfect storm” and means a rush to embrace the technology.

A similar consumer trend was seen with solar panels leading to power companies in the South East of England refusing to plug new ones in for fear of crashing the grid.

Mr Jefferson said current levels of one in every eight Capital vehicles being electric is manageable but once that reaches one in four, current infrastructure will struggle.

One in 12 cars bought last month in the UK were electric – up a staggering 90 per cent on this time last year.

Contingency plans include asking some owners to plug in their cars at non-peak times – such as overnight – as a charger doubles a consumer’s demand.

Most upgrading will be in residential side streets instead of main thoroughfares with work on higher voltage completed over recent years. One such example is upgrade work at Sighthill substation while many similar projects are on private land and so are expected to cause little disruption.

Mr Jefferson said the Capital benefits from “one of the most reliable supplies in the world” and said he expected it to be maintained through the changeover.

“One of the specific challenges we do have in Edinburgh is the type of housing,” he added. “Having a lot of terraced housing doesn’t afford itself for charging in individual charges – you have to have street chargers.”

Mr Jefferson said a communal charger in every street is an “absolute possibility” depending on discussions with the city council and customers’ behaviour.

Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, said the city will unveil its Electric Vehicle business case next month after eight months of research and consultation.

Cllr Macinnes added: “We are committed to encouraging the growth of electric vehicle ownership in Edinburgh as a sustainable, environmentally-friendly mode of transport but understand that change on this scale requires significant planning.

“The business case provides in detail the options for the wide-scale delivery of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Edinburgh, forecasting growth scenarios and the investment needed.

“As we move forward with this we will continue to liaise closely with organisations such as Scottish Power to build on existing work to address energy options for charging in all areas of the city.”

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