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Electric dreams

Nov 2018 Electric Vehicles | Comments Off on Electric dreams
Electric dreams

Scotland is leading the way in the adoption of electric vehicles, with the government committed to phasing out sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032. This will create opportunities as the installation of charging points gathers pace, explains Rob Shepherd

New UK registrations of plug-in cars increased from 3,500 in 2013 to more than 150,000 by May 2018. In Scotland, electric vehicle (EV) uptake is increasing due to a combination of environmental awareness, lower running costs, legislation and government initiatives.

There are now 16,400 EVs registered in Scotland, with 4,800 of these newly registered in 2016 – this is 7% more than in 2015. More EVs were sold in 2015 than in the previous four years combined, according to Transport Scotland.

The profile of EVs is growing, and they are an important element of the Scottish Government’s climate change and transport policies. It recently announced that it will create Scotland’s first ‘electric highway’ on the A9, including charging points along the route, and it aims to transform public sector car and van fleets by the mid-2020s, as well as commercial bus fleets by the early 2030s.

While greenhouse gas emissions have fallen dramatically in recent years – Scotland achieved its 2020 target for a 42% reduction six years early – transport emissions remain high. In September 2017 the Scottish Government announced that it plans to phase out all new fossil fuel engines by 2032.

Much of the uptake of EVs can be attributed to the UK-wide Plug-In Car Grant, which was launched in 2011; the Plug-In Van Grant followed in 2012. Purchasers are able to save 35% off the cost of a car, up to a maximum of £4,500, and 20% off the cost of a van, up to a maximum of £8,000. At the end of September 2017 there were 6,284 EVs licensed in Scotland eligible for the Plug-In Car and Plug-In Van Grant schemes, RAC statistics show.

Scotland’s Electric Vehicle Loan Scheme is in addition to the UK government’s Plug-in Vehicle Grant. Funded by Transport Scotland, it offers loans of up to £35,000 to cover the cost of purchasing a new, purely electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, and is repaid over a period of up to six years. Second-hand vehicles are not eligible and an applicant must not already own an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle.

Taking charge

One of the factors holding back the development of the market is the range that vehicles can travel on a single charge. Most EVs currently have a range of 100-150 miles before the battery runs flat, although some top-end cars can run for more than 300 miles. In the early days of EVs, initial slow take-up was blamed on an inadequate charging infrastructure, yet the UK network of EV charging points has increased from a few hundred in 2011 to more than 17,000 today, according to Zap-Map.

Funding is available via the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme and Energy Saving Trust to cover part of the cost of installing a home charge point for an EV. Meanwhile, ChargePlace Scotland (CPS) provides grant funding to local authorities and other organisations for the installation of publicly available charge points.

The bulk of the charge points in the CPS network are publicly accessible, although some are located on private commercial premises and have limited public availability. As of August 2017, there were 1,133 charging points in the CPS network, with a total of 2,089 sockets between them. A year earlier, there were 870 charge points and 1,772 connectors.

Furthermore, Scotland is ranked second in the UK for providing EV charging points and has some of the UK’s most well-developed publicly funded EV infrastructure – the north-east of England has the highest level of provision.

Charging technologies can be classified into three key groups – slow, fast and rapid. Slow charging units, typically up to 3kW, are suitable for a six to eight-hour overnight charge; 7-22kW fast chargers can complete a charge in three to four hours; while 43-50kW rapid charging units are able to provide an 80% charge in around 30 minutes.

The use of EV charge points in Scotland increased by 43% in 2017, and charging stations across the country were used 37,433 times during August 2017, compared with 26,119 times in the same month a year earlier. Despite the overall increase in usage, 23% of charge points were not used at all during August 2017. For those that were used, the mean charge duration was four hours and 12 minutes, and there was an average of 43 charging sessions at every used charge point across the network that month, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Leading by example

A number of Scottish local authorities have demonstrated their commitment to EVs, and Dundee is being held up as an example to other Scottish cities of how to roll out EV infrastructure. Its charging points are also the most used in all of Scotland, with 76 charge points used at least once in 2017, while its rapid charger in Broughty Ferry is the most used in Scotland, averaging 18 charges per day, figures from Dundee City Council suggest.

Other Scottish local authorities are trying to emulate this success. In 2011 there were just nine registered EVs in Edinburgh, but by the end of June 2017 this had increased to 489, and 23% of all licensed EVs in Scotland are now in the Edinburgh city region. The number of available charging points for EVs in the city has also increased – in 2013, there were eight, but by October 2017 this had increased to 89. Of these, 58 are available to the public, according to figures from Edinburgh City Council.

Since 2014, data has been compiled for the number of charging sessions and the amount of electricity used at locations across Edinburgh, and with additional infrastructure provision and more EVs, there has been an increase in usage. There has, however, been concern that it could lead to a doubling up of deliveries, with diesel-powered trucks unloading at out-of-town distribution centres and goods brought into cities by smaller EVs. It has been suggested that this could lead to increased prices for consumers and questions around how any extra electricity will be generated.

The growth of EVs in Scotland is certainly heading in the right direction, and further demand will be helped by increased production, lower vehicle prices, greater choice, improved battery technology, a better charging infrastructure and more incentives for drivers to purchase them. Incentives such as exemption from certain taxes and lower running costs overall are key to winning over the average Scottish motorist.

This is a summary of a more comprehensive White Paper produced by NICEIC, looking at the electric vehicles sector in Scotland. To access your free copy of the full version, go to

Rob Shepherd is a freelance business journalist who specialises in the building services industry and produced this article on behalf of NICEIC

Verification clarification

NICEIC has stepped in to help resolve an issue NICEIC-registered Approved Contractors based in Scotland faced when attempting to fulfil the company validation checks during the application process to be recognised as an Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) authorised supplier.

Historically, the OLEV authorisations team required applicants to identify which MHCLG-approved competent scheme member they were registered with and provide evidence of registration by submitting a copy of their certificate of registration.

However, with CPS schemes not operating in Scotland, NICEIC approached the DVLA authorisation team, which advised that its current provider was unaware that electrical competent persons schemes only covered England and Wales.

Following NICEIC’s intervention, OLEV has amended its procedures and NICEIC-registered Scottish installers can now rely upon as an accepted method of verification.