Morag Haddow: Car clubs should be available across Scotland

There are car clubs in operation in six of Scotland's seven cities.
There are car clubs in operation in six of Scotland's seven cities.
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Air quality has risen up the agenda. Daily headlines describe the damage pollution is causing to children’s health and detail the numbers of deaths it contributes to each year. Government is increasingly under pressure to bring about change, and as one of the main contributors, transport-based emissions are a priority for action.

With some smaller diesel cars’ emissions rivalling HGVs, the solution is not just about ridding the streets of lorries and upgrading to electric buses. Cars are also in the frame.

At Carplus Bikeplus we believe that it should be a lot easier to get about without owning a car, and that any cars on our highways should be zero or ultra low emission. That said, giving up a car completely can be tough, even for people in cities who mainly walk, cycle or use public transport.

Cars and vans are useful for complex or longer journeys and to carry heavier loads. And in rural locations it’s even harder – half of the miles driven in Scotland are driven on rural roads.

Whilst Transport Scotland is developing public transport, filling in the gaps between services requires more flexible solutions. For those who need a car from time to time, buying a new clean car is expensive.

This is where car clubs and bike share can help to ‘join up’ services and allow people to make journeys beyond public transport provision.

Car clubs make ‘pay as you go’ driving possible. After joining members get self-service access to vehicles available on-street. The cars can be booked online for as little as half-an-hour at a time. Drivers unlock them with a mobile phone or smartcard. Car use is charged by the hour with a small cost per mile. Some car clubs have a low monthly charge whilst others have no ongoing charge at all.

Car club cars are among the newest, cleanest vehicles in Scotland – meaning that people can access the latest technology affordably.The Scottish car club fleet is 23 per cent electric vehicles and the wider group of Ultra Low Emission vehicles (less than 75g CO2/km) comprises 35 per cent of the fleet. Only 6 per cent of the fleet is diesel.

We believe that car club vehicles should be available across Scotland, and this is not impossible. There are already car clubs in six of Scotland’s seven cities including many within easy reach of train stations. The network comprises 332 cars, serving over 11,000 car club members.

Although the densest network of cars is in Edinburgh, new car clubs are launching in diverse locations. For instance in Stornoway, a network of electric vehicles runs on wind-powered electricity and converts renewable energy into sustainable travel. Developers now provide car clubs – often with electric vehicles – for people moving into some new developments – helping reduce the numbers of cars needed by residents. This is a trend which must be supported. Even a small number of rural and small town communities run their own car clubs. In rural locations, joining a car club often means that families can save on running a second car that only gets used in emergencies or for occasional trips.

If you would like to find your nearest car club car, check the map on our website, and if there is a gap in the car club network, it’s a good idea to contact your council – sometimes they are not aware of demand.

lMorag Haddow is car club programme manager (Scotland) of carplus