Leader comment: Criticism of electric progress unhelpful

Edinburgh City Council is among local authorities criticised for the low mileage of its electric cars. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh City Council is among local authorities criticised for the low mileage of its electric cars. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Electric vehicles still account for only a small proportion of vehicles on Scotland’s roads, but anything to promote their use has to be good news for the environment.

They may remain too expensive for many motorists or offer too limited a driving range, but both price and distance are moving in the right direction.

In fact, as our sister paper Scotland on Sunday revealed last month, there has been an upsurge in drivers moving over to electric motoring, with an 80 per cent increase in new vehicle registrations north of the Border over the past year.

Coupled with that, the charging network in Scotland is developing by leaps and bounds, with luxury carmaker Tesla not just having a showroom in Edinburgh but increasing the number of superchargers for the use of its customers here too.

All these steps in the right direction while we are still the early stages of electric vehicles’ development make the Taxpayers’ Alliance criticism of local authorities unfortunate.

Councils should rightly be the standard bearers of this new, greener vehicle technology, setting an example to others on the road and potentially influencing their future buying choices.

The lobby group, who are not for the first time taking a pop at electric vehicles, have criticised Scottish local authorities for the low mileage of their electric fleets.

It has obtained figures showing the vehicles have done an average of 5,843 miles a year, compared to the 8,000-mile average for cars.

Whether this is a fair comparison or not - rather than with councils’ other cars - the alliance has come to the conclusion that money has been “squandered on ideas that sound nice but don’t deliver”.

It is true that many councils operate their own charging points, so keeping the cars powered up should not be a problem.

But critics should be encouraging councils to make greater use of their electric vehicles rather than simply condemning their purchase.

Initiatives could include incentivising staff to use the cars where the type of trip involved is suitable.

It’s still early days for the mass use of electric vehicles, and councils, along with other owners - both corporate and private - are finding their way towards the best use of what is still evolving technology.

Local authorities should be praised for taking a lead, and must be given more of a chance to build on it.