Nathan Goode: Drive for green cars leaves Scots in the slow lane

As 2012 gets its wheels in motion, the Chevrolet Volt was named the North American Car of the Year and with new models expected from Vauxhall and Renault and the eagerly awaited Tesla Model S, you may think this is the year of the electric car.

The market is coming from a low base; registrations in 2011 barely crept over the 1,000 mark. The Committee on Climate Change, which advises the UK government, is looking for 1.3 million on UK roads by 2020.

Something is holding back cash-conscious – and most importantly environmentally aware – drivers from shifting gear from petrol to electrical. One reason is clearly the lack of vehicle charging “hubs”. Putting an infrastructure in place that allows owners to recharge is fundamental, but little progress is being made.

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ScottishPower has recognised this gap. It claims that if hundreds of company car parks in Scotland’s cities were converted into hubs, it would drive consumers into embracing the technology.

The energy provider is hoping to develop the concept in collaboration with councils and employers.

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The Scottish Government is also trying to entice Scots to change their driving habits by announcing £8.5m funding for electric cars to subsidise the purchase price and pay for hubs. The money has been split between 32 local authorities, with Edinburgh recently announcing its £207,000 share. However, once this has been allocated between vehicles and charging points, the actual amount looks relatively small.

There are an increasing number of charging points UK-wide, estimated at more than 1,500, but few are in Scotland. Business Green notes that Source London has 263 charge points with 1,300 targeted by 2013.

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Chargemaster is spending £10 million to ensure its POLAR scheme has 4,000 installed by the end of the year, while SSE, Waitrose, Little Chef and Welcome Break aim to have charging points at work places and public spaces. A number of the English charging points are local authority sponsored.

Is Scotland in the slow lane compared with England? Will electric cars end up turning back at the Border?

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Nathan Goode heads up the Grant Thornton Energy, Environment and Sustainability Practice