SHETLAND Islands Council is to introduce charges for users of its burgeoning network of electric vehicle charging points around the islands.
The local authority has so far installed a dozen charging points – six in Lerwick, and a further six in more rural locations – after benefiting from various tranches of external money.
With the cost of electric vehicles remaining much higher than for their petrol and diesel counterparts, it is thought that a very small number of people are actually using the charging points in Shetland at this stage.
But the Scottish Government has identified a need to put the necessary infrastructure in place in the belief that more people will adopt the new technology as the cost comes down in the years ahead.
SIC infrastructure director Maggie Sandison told a meeting of the environment and transport committee on Tuesday that grant funding was provided “on the basis that it would be cost-neutral for the council to implement electric charging points across its community”.
“We have, as you’ve probably seen, put a number of these points in place and they are starting to be used more,” she said.
The council is also applying for further funding that should allow more charging points in addition to those approved back in October 2014.
At present there are six in Lerwick – at North Ness Business Park, Fort Road, Clickimin, Gilbertson Park, Lerwick Health Centre and Grantfield – plus points in Dunrossness, Bixter, Baltasound, the Brae Health Centre and Ulsta Ferry Terminal in Yell.
There is also a charging point in Fetlar, installed by Fetlar Museum Trust with grant assistance, which remains free to use.
Councillors agreed to introduce rates of £5.53 for a “standard” charger, £3.75 for a “fast” charger and £4.68 for a “rapid” charger – still much cheaper than the cost of filling up on petrol or diesel.
Sandison said it was important the council was not seen to be subsidising electric vehicles.
Because of the high cost of the technology, it is unlikely people on low incomes will own electric cars, meaning the new levy “wouldn’t be impacting on people who couldn’t afford to pay this charge”.
She added that there was a “very clear focus” on ensuring the council capitalises on any future funding opportunities.
Councillor Jonathan Wills pronounced himself delighted with “a really quite inspiring initiative”.
Last month the SIC and NHS Shetland took delivery of five electric vans thanks to government funding.
Both organisations said they hoped to encourage private businesses and householders to make the change to low-emission vehicles.
Government funding is also available for householders to install their own charge points at home, while nationally a number of wind turbine owners are charging vehicles directly from their own wind power, described as “a real opportunity for communities in Shetland”.
SIC leader Gary Robinson said both the local authority and the health board were “keen to demonstrate that electric vehicles are now a mature, mainstream technology”.
“Electric vehicles could contribute to savings of up to five millions tons of CO2 per year across Europe by 2020,” he said, “and these vans will make excellent additions to our fleets.
“We would hope that other organisations and individuals would think about how they too can contribute to the transition from fossil fuels to alternative forms of transport.
“Shetland’s rich renewable resources lend themselves to this technology, and electric and hydrogen powered vehicles can help give us a sustainable transport future.”
NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts said the vehicles “give us the opportunity to show how we can tackle emissions from the considerable mileage our staff need to do to provide health care across Shetland, and I look forward to watching how this progresses.”
The Nissan e-NV200s have a range of 106 miles between charges and can be charged in 30 minutes at a “rapid charge” point, or overnight from a standard plug.
The SIC received £40,000 to fund three-year leases on three vehicles, while NHS Shetland received £21,000 to allow it to lease two vehicles.