While detractors pedal their misguided and often negative views about electric vehicles – some, it is said, with vested interests in keeping the status quo – Scotland's drivers continue to lead the UK in (per capita) EV sales and in infrastructure planning and implementation. Fact is, there's no choice, we are going electric, it's only a matter of time... and that time is diminishing.
By 2030 – only seven-and-a half years from now – there will be a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in Scotland, and facts show amazing support for the transition to all electric vehicles.
The world's motor manufacturers are investing billions in new product lines to replace existing models and both Scottish and UK governments are financially committed to supporting the vital public charging infrastructures, while encouraging more private sector involvement.
Oil giants such as Shell and BP are well aware of the rapid changes taking place and are stepping up. Forecourts are being transformed, with petrol and diesel pumps being replaced with electric charge hubs. Shopping malls have charging hubs springing up virtually every week.
The UK Government is on track to have over 300,000 public charge points installed by 2030, resulting in five times more than the number of petrol stations. In Scotland, the government, through its agency Transport Scotland, has pledged a further £60m to ensure the infrastructure provides 30,000 charge points across all parts of the country by 2030 so that 'no-one is disadvantaged'.
EV sales are booming. Today, there are now over 32,000 licensed vehicles in Scotland classed as ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs), with the majority being pure battery electric vehicles. More were registered last year than in the previous five years combined... the pace is staggering.
Charge point infrastructure is paramount. Dundee – it leads the country in installing charge point facilities – Aberdeen and Glasgow have ramped up, with massive charge point investments. Edinburgh has just rolled out over 40 new electric vehicle charging bays at Ingliston and Hermiston park and rides. Preliminary work is also underway to install 41 rapid and fast chargers – amounting to 72 charging bays. These will be complete and available for use by early summer.
Transport Scotland's 'Switched on Towns and Cities Challenge Fund' is supporting these and other similar developments. The country's infrastructure is of paramount importance.
Glasgow-based EV installation company, Jorro, is one of those at the forefront of this massive side of the EV industry in Scotland. Boss Dave Pickles says: 'Businesses need the opportunity to add reliable cost effective charging for plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles. There has, undoubtedly, been a huge and rapid increase in sales of plug-in vehicles both in the private and public sectors. Employers and traders are looking to provide customers and staff with the right facilities to charge their EVs. Workplace charging helps staff reduce their commuting costs and vehicle emissions'.
House builders in Scotland may soon be required (through legislation) to fit home chargers to every future new build house... and Scottish Borders firm, Eco Group, has developed a product that contains the entire EV charging point infrastructure within a brick-sized construction pack which can be fitted as part of the existing building process.
However, Scotland's hospitality sector is lagging behind and could lose business if it fails to respond to the need for charge points for guests and customers. Hotels, restaurants, B&Bs, holiday parks and cottages are being urged (by EVA Scotland) to fit a combination of slow and fast chargers as a matter of urgency. By 2025, it's predicted that one in three cars on our roads in the UK will be electric.
EVA Scotland is the voice of electric vehicle drivers in Scotland and supports both the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland towards net zero carbon emissions. Its director, Neil Swanson, commented: 'We are experiencing nothing short of a seismic shift in the way we are rapidly moving forward in low emission transportation and a net zero environment. The shift from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles is going to be one of the largest examples of public or private policy implementation of the next decade'.
Sales of EVs in Scotland grew by 46% last year, compared to 33% in the rest of the UK – more in 2021 than in the previous five years. There are now over 11,000 registered in this country and the numbers are climbing fast.
Mr Swanson continued: 'As Scotland forges ahead month-on-month, it is important that the country's public charging infrastructure simultaneously meets the rising demand for a range of suitably located charge points. There is an urgent need to keep pace with the rapid uptake by those drivers who see the financial as well as the environmental benefits of going all-electric'.
Long-range electric buses are now pioneering the move to get people off the roads and into public transport. Edinburgh-based Ember is now operating two buses which have a range of over 200 miles in a pilot programme between the capital and Dundee. Next, say Ember, will be services expanding to Fort William in the west and beyond.
EV battery developments in far-flung John o' Groats and in Dundee will soon see lithium batteries become extinct. AMTE Power have developed the latest in battery cell technology which not only increases the life and efficiency of new batteries but boosts the already impressive acceleration of EVs. The company has linked up with Britishvolt, which is opening massive gigafactories in the north of England and Wales to produce the finished products for UK and world-wide consumption, lessening dramatically our reliance on foreign imports.
It's not just cars. In Glenrothes, the Electron Garage has an electric prototype conversion of the traditional London black taxi cab. Taxi drivers' associations in Glasgow and Edinburgh are eager to get their hands on this money-saving conversion which can save operators almost 50% over the purchase on new cabs. In Cumnock, Ayrshire, fire and rescue vehicles are being produced by the Emergency One Group for an expanding marketplace.
Why go electric?
All these developments are impressive and encouraging but why switch to an EV in the first place? If it's to help save the planet, that's a noble gesture. If it's a combination of that and the financial considerations – saving money on fuel, maintenance and overall running costs – then it's a no-brainer.
In a recent survey, over 90% of EVA Scotland members said it was cheaper fuel costs that influenced their decision when making the transition to owning an electric vehicle. Other factors and considerations were:
• reductions in overall running costs (71%)
• a more enjoyable drive (82%)
• a quieter drive (87%)
• increased acceleration (68%)
Over 96% said they were very satisfied or satisfied with their EV, with a majority adding they would choose another one for their next purchase. Although battery range was one of the key factors in choosing their current EV, according to 63% of drivers, only 14% of those surveyed thought that EVs were not suitable for long journeys.
Another concern was the cost of buying a new EV (manufacturers are aware and prices will come down soon) and so leasing is becoming a popular, and many think, attractive alternative.
Busting the myths
Convincing a (still) sceptical motoring public that this whole decarbonisation movement is not just a one-off good idea, a token gesture to satisfy the climate change brigade, and one that may relieve government consciences, takes time. But time is not on our side!
Norrie Hunter is
a motoring journalist and is currently advising Electric Vehicle Association Scotland on press and media communications