Orkney embrace the electric vehicle

A WIND-powered car might be science fantasy, but Orcadians have discovered the nearest thing. With their wealth of renewable energy, the islanders have become the keenest users of electric vehicles in Scotland outside the capital.

Local renewable energy is a factor in the electric car success story. Picture: Getty

More than 50 of the specialist cars are already cruising around the tiny community of just over 20,000, representing around 5 per cent of the Scottish usage of the vehicles. Orkney has 0.4 per cent of the Scottish population.

The high interest in electric vehicles (EVs) is not only saving consumers money and cutting down the use of fossil fuels, but is creating income for operators of locally generated renewable energy.

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The local authority is leading the green revolution with a 3.5-ton electric litter lorry which clears the bins in and around Kirkwall – the first vehicle of its kind in ­Scotland. And recently, the council was successful in securing full ­government funding for the ­islands’ first electric bus, which will arrive later this year.

A small Peugeot iOn car used by council staff has become a familiar sight around the islands with its “Orkney’s Electric Future” logo.

Gavin Barr, Orkney Islands Council’s executive director of development and infrastructure, said: “Electric vehicles are already an increasingly common sight on local roads. Orkney’s Electric Future [initiative] is aimed at encouraging a further uptake in numbers of EVs, reducing consumption of fossil fuels and raising demand for something our islands have in abundance – locally generated renewable energy.”

Councillor Stephen Hagan, who chairs the Electric Future initiative, said: “The electric car has proved a great success – and has cut fuel bills greatly for the council when compared to running a conventional car.”

Ian Johnstone, from Orkney-based environmental consultants Aquatera, said: “The island lends itself to EVs very well, because it is quite a small community and easy to drive in, with the charging points easily accessible.” There are 11 free points based around Orkney.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Thanks to the large number of small- scale wind turbines across the islands, many Orkney households already generate more renewable electricity than their homes need. It therefore makes perfect sense that Orcadians are opting to power other things with this clean energy excess, including their cars.

“With the right kind of government support, what is happening on Orkney today could one day be replicated right across the country.

“Alongside measures to reduce the total number of cars on our roads, a significant shift to electric vehicles will be needed to help Scotland reduce climate change emissions.”

RAC Foundation said there are as many as 1,100 electric cars on Scotland’s roads. Edinburgh has the most, but Orkney has the largest share in comparison to population.

Actor Robert Llewellyn, who played Kryton in BBC hit comedy series Red Dwarf, is to visit Orkney next month to promote his Fully Charged web campaign for communal use of EVs.