Any child of the 1980s who like me watched the Back to the Future movies, would have been very upset as 2015 came and went with no signs of hover boards. Science fiction throws up visions of the future which are often frustrated.
While we may not be strapping on jet packs to nip into town, the days of the internal combustion engine powering our cars do seem numbered. That brings with it the prospect of cleaner, greener cities. But it also comes at a time where other technologies from autonomous vehicles and home mirco-electricity generation could revolutionise not just the air that we breath in our cities, but could reduce traffic and help build a more sustainable economy.
Some cities are embracing this new future. Dundee City Council took over a disused filling station site. They have installed both the latest charging station and a solar array roof to help drive forward the use of electric vehicles in that city.
In Edinburgh we have made a start on a plan, identifying where charging points need to be in the city based on use. A trial of on-street parking has been promised. But the reality is that we are yet to see a single new socket.
Just under a year ago, there were only 58 charging points which were publicly accessible in Edinburgh. Leith, the most densely populated area of Scotland, has just one. That’s less than the number Dundee are opening in addition to what they already have, a city with a population the quarter of the size of Edinburgh. Add to this the fact that only 61 per cent of vehicle drivers in Edinburgh have access to off street parking, and you can see we need to do much better if we are not going to be left further behind.
One in 12 cars sold is now electric; sales have grown by 90 per cent in the last year alone. To meet this demand, it is estimated that there needs to be a six-fold increase in the number of charging points across the country by 2020.
The Scottish Government has recently promised funding for 1500 more electric vehicle charging points. There’s currently just over 1000 across Scotland – you can work out the maths, this will still only be a third of what’s required to meet demand.
To meet this demand, let alone realise the wider benefits this revolution could bring, we need a serious ramp up in investment.
In recent years Edinburgh has become something of a tech hub. But in order to become a truly tech city, we need to invest in the infrastructure that can make that happen. Mapping out the city into zones for different kinds of charging points is helpful, but a long way short of what is needed. Edinburgh needs to take a leaf out of Dundee’s book, both in terms of the innovation and investment it has shown in making a city driven by electric vehicles a reality.
Daniel Johnson is the Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern