Scotland is primed for an electric car ‘motoring revolution’, according to the Director of the RAC, Steve Gooding.
According to the RAC, the overall use of Scotland’s EV charging stations increased by 43% in the past year. This summer saw a particular spike, with the use of charge points across the country growing from 32,119 instances in July to 37,433 instances just one month later in August.
The top 10 stations are all ‘rapid charger points’, and accounted for 13% of all charging sessions in August. Eight of the top 10 – including the top three – are located in Dundee.
However, despite the surge in uses, the RAC has also conceded that almost one-quarter of Scotland’s charging points went unused.
In July, DIGIT reported that UK Government was looking to start an ‘electrical revolution’ of its own, with the announcement of the Faraday Challenge. The £246 million initiative will provide a financial boost to firms looking to develop electric battery R&D surrounding electric batteries. In the same week, BMW also announced that it would begin production on a new electrical Mini at its plant in Cowley, Oxford.
The independent advisory group Committee for Climate Change, has suggested that at least 5% of Scotland’s car fleet must be electric by 2020 in order to reach a ‘critical mass’ encouraging wider rollout.
In raw numbers, this equates to the sale of around 27,000 electric vehicles in Scotland every year until 2020. At the end of June this year, however, the number of vehicles in Scotland qualifying for the plugin car and van grant was only 5,521.
Doubts over the practicality of electric vehicles are one of the reasons behind their lack of adoption. According to The Herald, in August 2017 the average charge time of an electric vehicle was four hours and 12 minutes. Outside of forcing more preparation than petrol and diesel cars, there are concerns that forecourts may fill due to the time EV batteries take to charge.
RAC Director Steve Gooding said: “Scotland may be on the cusp of a motoring revolution, but step-changes in electric vehicle technology must be matched by equally big strides in recharging infrastructure.
“It is pleasing to see the use rapid chargers are getting. But the stubbornly high number of charge points that get little or no use shows that we still need to think not just about the total amount of charging infrastructure but what type it is and where it is located.
“Few of the owners of Scotland’s 2.8 million cars and vans think twice about the process of refuelling with petrol or diesel: pull onto a forecourt, flip the filler cap, insert the nozzle and a couple of minutes later the job’s done. Only when we get close to the same ease of use for electric cars will we truly enable a mass market for them.”
Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research with IAMRoadsmart said: “We welcome the steady growth in charging points. They are an essential requirement if we are ever to deliver the step change in electric cars needed to replace the internal combustion engine. Overall electric cars make up a tiny proportion of the market.
“It looks like the key next steps are to increase the number of rapid chargers and to investigate wider incentives. In Norway electric car use has taken off due to a range of policies designed to reward electric car users. These include using bus only lanes and cheaper parking. Clearly we have made a start in Scotland but there is still a long way to go.”
The potential for hydrogen fuel cell powered cars is also being explored in Scotland, by the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project. The initiative in its current stage is aiming to unite industry and public sector bodies to deliver what is currently the largest fleet (10 vehicles) of fuel cell buses in Europe. However, hydrogen fuel cells are also dangerous, and a focus for the tech aims to mitigate their extreme flammability and threat of electrocution.