John McLellan: A bumpy road ahead for electric cars

We are only 14 years away from a ban on new petrol and diesel cars in Scotland but how many people know where their nearest charging point is? Or if you are thinking about an electric car, do you just plug it into the mains with an extension cable through the living room window?

Thursday, 20th September 2018, 6:00 am
If we all switched to electric cars tomorrow, the grid couldnt cope with the power demand. Picture: Scott Taylor

You need a special charging point costing around £1000 to install, but for which a £500 grant is available from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, with the possibility of a further £300 from the Energy Saving Trust.

Of course it’s all very well if you have a driveway, but if you live in a tenement of a multi-storey you can hardly have cables dangling from the fourth floor. In any case, if we all went green tomorrow and switched to electric cars, the grid couldn’t cope with the power demand.

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These were the kind of issues discussed at a short seminar titled “Empowering Smart Cities” organised by SP Energy Networks, ScottishPower’s electricity infrastructure arm, to look at what’s needed to make Edinburgh ready to meet future power needs.

Fortunately the prospect of wires strung across every street like a cat’s cradle is already unlikely with the development of inductive charging; electromagnetic plates sunk into the ground by which cars with a similar plate are recharged just by parking over them.

But charging plates or plugs, the upheaval involved will be like the early days of cable TV, from which pavements still bear the scars.

Space race is not impossible

We have a naturally pressured housing market. Surrounded by green belt and sea, Edinburgh is a compact, thriving capital city where more and more people are choosing to live. Land is relatively scarce and expensive.

Not my words, but those of the city’s housing convener, Councillor Kate Campbell (pictured) in the Evening News earlier this week, and its components are by and large undeniably true with one possible exception.

We have an undeniably pressurised housing market, with prices up by over nine per cent last month to an average of £255,000. Surrounded by green belt and sea we undoubtedly are if you don’t include the border with parts of Mid and East Lothian.

But land is only scarce if it’s declared off-limits and there are acres of land between Newbridge and Gogar if the administration has the will to unlock it.

Tell us what we don’t know

Business consultancy Grant Thornton’s “Vibrant Economy” report attempts to marry up six different measurements such as prosperity, opportunity and inequality in UK council areas. Edinburgh scores highly when it comes to prosperity and opportunity, but not so well on inclusion.

The problem is although the report is UK-wide, the comparisons are within each nation, so Edinburgh is only compared with other Scottish authorities. So Edinburgh has Scotland’s most dynamic economy with some very well-off people but also a lot of poor people? Yes, we knew that.

As a marketing exercise for Grant Thornton it’s fine but as a useful new contribution to debates about the future, not so much.

Throw away your worries

Exciting times. Next week those of us who have signed up for the new garden bin service by paying the £25 tithe, which is 56,300 households, will get to know when they will be emptied. And we all have the satisfaction we have donated £1.4m to the council. Anyone feeling they are missing out has the chance to pay up from October 1. At the same time a new four-day-week work rota is being introduced for all waste collections. Sure, it’ll be fine.