Council agrees to plug into electric experiment

AS expected, Scottish Borders Council’s executive this week approved plans to run a pilot of three electric cars to undertake local trips for social work teams in the central Borders, writes Andrew Keddie.

As we revealed last week, the council will utilise a £105,000 grant from the Scottish Government for the procurement of low carbon vehicles.

That largesse is based on the scheme paying the running cost difference between an electric car and a conventionally-fuelled model. The grant will also fund the establishment of a small network of charging stations in areas across the Borders that would also be available for use by the general public.

On Tuesday, the executive heard these would, subject to surveys, be situated at three social offices: Rose Lane in Kelso, Abbotsford Road in Galashiels and the old school building in Newtown St Boswells. A further three charging points at the police stations in Peebles, Hawick and Galashiels are also being investigated.

A report from SBC’s fleet manager Jim Martin noted that SBC would contribute £25,000 of the total capital cost of £96,000 for the three cars, while the grant would cover the £34,000 cost of the six charging stations.

Although in this week’s Southern Reporter Iain Taylor takes issue with the cost advantages (see letters on page 9), the report says that beyond clear economic and environmental benefit, financial benefits would also accrue.

The report states: “For the purposes of evaluation, a conventionally powered car would cost £8,500 and the full cost of an equivalent electric car [in this case a Citroen C-Zero] is £33,000, so the subsidy is £23,500 per car.

“The social work department will need to pay £1,700 for maintenance and insurance ... each car would only need to be used for £4,595 per annum to break even based on the difference between the normal mileage cost for car usage of 40p and the average cost of running an electric car which is 3p.

“The potential efficiency on an average single user’s mileage would be £1,085, rising to £3,255 for three cars and £19,530 for the six-year lifespan of the cars.”

The executive unanimously backed the pilot scheme, despite hearing of a range of risks. Drawbacks included low vehicle range – up to 80 miles – a lack of charging stations and the time it takes for a complete charge, which is generally greater than four hours.

It was also reported that there may be resistence from some employees volunteering to use the electric cars because they will see a reduction in payable mileage benefits.

The report says: “This can be mitigated by having the financial benefits to the council explained fully and having an appropriate mileage policy in place.”

An updated report will go to councillors after a year.