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SPONSORED: Why Dundee – and the council leader – is leading the way in EVs

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In 10 years’ time there will be hardly any petrol or diesel cars on the roads of Dundee, that’s the hope of city council leader John Alexander, who is helping drive down the number of vehicle users having a negative impact on the environment.

Electric vehicles (EV), which have zero emissions, are something the councillor is very passionate about, not just in his role as head of the council, but as an EV driver himself.

In August 2018, he and his wife traded in their two petrol cars for one electric-powered Nissan Leaf, a decision that is continuing to benefit the family. Used mainly for the nursery runs and driving to and from council meetings, Cllr Alexander claims his electric vehicle is “the best car” he has ever driven.

Part of that reason is because Dundee’s infrastructure is the best in the UK and it is forward-thinking in its mission to decarbonise transport. In fact, in the city you are never more than 0.45km away from your nearest charging point, so it is no wonder Dundee was named by the World Electric Vehicle Association as “Europe’s most visionary city for EV policy”.

The charging hub at Green Market

Cllr Alexander said: “I think politicians should practice what they preach. I can’t say EVs are great, if I am not willing to drive one myself, plus the environmental considerations and how much I was paying for two petrol cars, made sense for me, along with the added benefit of being able to charge it across the city.”

Concerns around buying electric vehicles centre on the fairly expensive outlays and the frequency of requiring a charging point. However, the council leader – who gets 80 miles out of a full charge in his second-hand Nissan Leaf – says he is glad he made the switch and now advises other Dundonians to do the same.

He explained: “I was paying £700-a-year for parking alone on top of road tax and petrol!

“An electric car is more expensive to buy, but when you consider the other benefits, it’s worth taking the plunge. I love it, and I don’t think I would go back now.

“I would advise people to do their research and list the pros and cons, like you would with any big purchase.

For me, it was a no-brainer to get rid of two petrol cars pumping out carbon dioxide, to one electric car that doesn’t.

“Plus, you don’t have any road tax to pay, there is free parking at multi-storey car parks and less can go wrong with an electric car because there are fewer moving parts.

“One of the biggest concerns is ‘what happens if you run out of charge?’ but in Dundee we have the most charging points per head of population, so you are never too far away from your nearest electric charging point, around 0.45km on average.”

It was in 2011 when Dundee City Council first introduced 100% electric power into its own fleet of vehicles. It began with a couple of chargers and a handful of electric cars, but now, when it comes to driving electric, Dundee is streets ahead of most UK cities.

Today, the city council now has one of the highest percentages of electric vehicles of all local authorities in the country. These council vehicles (pictured above) have travelled more than 1.1 million miles on pure electric, saving more than 220,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. And, by April 2021, the council will have doubled the number of electric vehicles in its fleet.

The council chief added: “As of December 9, we agreed to a tender of a purchase of two electric bin lorries.

“It started off as smaller vans, then cars, but now we are starting to purchase bin lorries, large street sweepers and minibuses too that are 100% electric.

“It’s incredible – one of the big benefits of Dundee is its small scale – it is six miles across. So if you do 10 journeys from each edge of the city, that’s only 60 miles.”

The city council has not just invested in its fleet (at a cost of around £5 million); it has also significantly developed its infrastructure and its policies.

In a bid to encourage the uptake of electric-powered vehicles, the council has already introduced free charging for members of the public (and for businesses and taxi drivers until recently). It was also the first local authority to have a pure electric taxi rank and is also home to the largest fleet of taxis in the UK.

Council Leader John Alexander at a charging point

Plus, other incentives for EV drivers include free parking in multi-storeys, and soon there will be charging points installed in all new housing estates. And, there is good news for flat owners too, as pop-up charging hubs on pavements will be installed to address the 52% of residents in Dundee who live in flats or tenements, as part of the Clean Streets project, funded by The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).

Cllr Alexander said: “This Clean Streets project is the first of its kind and has already started in a bid to make it work even better for people who live in flats or tenements.

“We are looking at the logistical challenges and we will have to identify the streets, then we are looking to install them in late 2020/early 2021.

“We are trying to identify where some of the barriers might be for some people, and knock them out the way.

Dundee is probably one of the best cities to spearhead projects like this, and prove they work, and that’s what we are going to try and do over the next year or so.”

It is hoped that within the next 10 years there will be hardly any petrol or diesel cars, buses or taxis on Dundee’s roads, something that Cllr Alexander sees as highly possible if the progress the city has already made continues at the same speed.

What does the future of the EV infrastructure in Dundee actually look like?

Cllr Alexander hopes that it will continue to progress and added: “Both UK and Scottish Governments have said the end of the diesel engine is in our sights, and if we can help lead the way, we are happy to do so.”

New user frequently asked questions:

I’m planning a trip, where can I find chargers around the UK?

There are more than 1,000 EV charge points across Scotland. You can search for chargepoints on a range of websites including Zap-Map, ChargePlace Scotland, Plug share and Open Charge map.

Where can I find a charger in Dundee?

There are more than 104 publicly available charge points across the city, with another 40 planned to be installed before summer 2020. Most will be found at charging hubs and in the form of on-street chargers. For further details visit the ChargePlace Scotland website or Zap map.

How much does it cost to charge in Dundee?

For EV users who live in Dundee, there is no cost. For commercial EV users, it is 15p per kw with a 38p connections fee. This will be invoiced to you by ChargePlace Scotland.

Where do I get information on grants for cars?

The Energy Saving Trust has lots of information on grants available for personal and business use. They currently offer drivers in Scotland up to £35,000 to cover the cost of purchasing a new pure electric/ plug-in hybrid vehicle or up to £10,000 to cover the cost of purchasing a new electric motorcycle or scooter.

How do I get a home charger?

EST and OLEV offer grants up to £1,000 so people can install one. Check out the Energy Saving Trust website (under “transport and EVs and grants”) for more information.

How do I join the free parking scheme?

Send the vehicle details and a contact name to: fleet@dundeecity.gov.uk Remember: free parking is only available to pure electric vehicles. Hybrids are not eligible.

What’s the difference between a rapid and a fast charger?

Rapid charge points (50Kw) are the quickest way to recharge a vehicle, typically recharging a vehicle to 80% in around 30 minutes. Slow charge points (7Kw) are suitable when vehicles are parked for several hours, such as during working hours or overnight. Fast charge points (22Kw) are a happy medium and ideal when vehicles are parked for a few hours.

Where can I get more information on the Dundee residents’ discount scheme?

If you are a Dundee resident and own an EV or plug-in hybrid, email: fleet@dundeecity.gov.uk for more details about the discount scheme.

How long does it take to charge a vehicle?

This depends on the car and the charger. For example, the Nissan Leaf 0-80% on a rapid charger will take 40 minutes; fast 22Kw takes six hours 0-100%; and 7Kw takes six hours 0-100%.

How many miles can I travel in one charge?

It depends on the vehicle and the driver. Many newer EVs can travel up to 300 miles on one charge. The BMWi3 gets to 175 miles on the one charge; the Nissan Leaf 40kw battery gets to 165 miles; and the Nissan 24kw battery gets to 110 miles. Similarly, if you drive fast in a petrol car you will use more fuel; it’s the same in an electric.

How much does it cost to buy and run an EV?

Although the upfront cost of an electric vehicle is often higher, EVs can be cheaper to run due to the low cost of electricity compared to petrol or diesel. The maintenance is cheaper as the EV has fewer moving parts (no oil change needed and the brake pads last longer).

How do I access the chargers?

You need a “ChargePlace Scotland access card”. For more information visit www.chargeplacescotland.org

What is ChargePlace Scotland?

ChargePlace Scotland is the national charging network for Scotland. It was established and developed by the Scottish government. All charge points are free to access once an account has been set up, except those chargers with a tariff.

*Find out more about switching to an electric vehicle at www.drivedundeeelectric.co.uk