Russell Imrie: Motoring’s greatest goal is a green prix

Russell Imrie and Jewel & Esk principal Mandy Exley get set for a green trip
Russell Imrie and Jewel & Esk principal Mandy Exley get set for a green trip
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Jewel & Esk College shows us way ahead, writes Russell Imrie, and the traffic lights are all with us

As petrol prices soar ever higher, the cost of motoring is unlikely to go down. Finding cost-effective, practical alternatives is becoming an increasingly urgent priority.

Today, Jewel & Esk College is presenting the results of a major practical experiment using electric cars as an alternative to internal combustion vehicles.

There has been a number of trials using electric vehicles, all of which have contributed towards the development of electric cars as a viable option, but the Jewel & Esk project stands out for its scope and practical nature.

Starting in September 2011, more than 30 staff and students at Jewel & Esk used four Mitsubishi electric vehicles, provided by Phoenix Mitsubishi, to make routine journeys between the college’s Edinburgh and Midlothian campuses; Stevenson College in Sighthill; Midlothian Council in Dalkeith; SQA Midlothian and other local destinations on a daily basis, rather than the college’s fleet of standard petrol-driven cars.

The vehicles were powered by four charging points on the college campuses and used rural and urban routes in a variety of traffic conditions.

The aim was to replace the petrol-driven cars with electric equivalents, with a view to gradually increasing the number of electric vehicles used by the college in the longer term.

By February, the participants had taken a total of 962 individual journeys and travelled more than 11,000 miles, with an average distance covered of just over five miles on each trip.

The performance of the cars, which are small modern hatchbacks, compared well with petrol equivalents and fuel costs were significantly cheaper. On average, the electric cars cost 3p a mile to run compared with 17p a mile for their petrol-driven counterparts. As the cost of fuel rises, the basic pounds and pence advantages of the electric cars will only become clearer.

As part of the project, Jewel & Esk students have also developed a cost-effective charging post.

The South East Scotland Transport partnership (SEStran) backed the project with £25,000 of funding in partnership with Midlothian Council, as part of our aim of supporting the development of sustainable transport options.

If all of us shared a car journey just once a week it would reduce traffic congestion by up to 20 per cent, with a corresponding reduction in the carbon footprint. The reality is that cars, even if shared to capacity, are going to continue to represent a significant aspect of transportation for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the question of what type of fuel is used to run them is a key environmental factor.

The significance of the Jewel & Esk project is its scope, its practicality and the success it has achieved by seamlessly replacing a fleet of petrol-driven vehicles with electric alternatives.

Of course, there is no magic bullet that can solve our transportation problems. This requires an approach that addresses every aspect of the public’s transportation needs.

SEStran has set itself this very goal, to be achieved through the implementation of our 15-year regional transport strategy for south east Scotland.

Jewel & Esk shows how new technologies can be used to meet today’s transport needs; that electric cars can be a significant part of the solution to our urgent transportation problems – a solution that can seamlessly replace one transportation option with a viable alternative, but in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

Jewel& Esk College has laid down a challenge on environmentally friendly transport. Let’s not be slow in taking it up.

• Councillor Russell Imrie is chairman of SEStran


• The cheapest new electric car available in the UK is around £8500, with most priced between £20,000 and £25,000. The most expensive is £100,000

• The cost per mile of driving the electric cars during the Jewel and Esk tests was 3p, compared with 17p per mile for petrol cars

• During the run-outs, the cars averaged 5.1 miles per journey

• The college has developed a cost-effective charge post with the help of engineering students

• Although electric model cars date back to 1828, the first conventional vehicle was developed in around 1890 by William Morrison, of Iowa. His six-person wagon was capable of hitting speeds of up to 14 miles per hour