Electric vehicles Scotland: Orkney one of top places in UK with highest number of EVs per person, says new study

Orkney has long been a pioneering place when it comes to energy, with wind power to the national grid starting on the island in the 1950s

The Orkney Islands has one of the highest proportions of electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK, according to new research.

Figures released by AA show the Scottish islands are said to outrank London Kensington and other boroughs when it comes to the most EVs per person.

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Elmbridge, in Surrey, is said to have the UK’s highest rate of EVs ownership, with 1,469 vehicles among 87,151 drivers aged between 18 and 69. This equates to 16.9 electric vehicles per 1,000 motorists.

The number of EVs on Orkney has significantly increased in recent years (pic: John Walton)The number of EVs on Orkney has significantly increased in recent years (pic: John Walton)
The number of EVs on Orkney has significantly increased in recent years (pic: John Walton)

The Orkney Islands, according to the study, had a total of 235 EVs out of a pool of 14,491 drivers in the same age group by the end of last year, which works out at 16.2 electric vehicles per 1,000 motorists.

In third place is Waverley, another Surrey borough, with 15.7 EVs, while Kensington and Chelsea in London are in fourth place with 15.2 EVs per 1,000 drivers.

The research also said the 22,500 Orkney residents have 51 charging points – equal to 226 per 100,000 people. This compares to Harrow in North-West London, which only has 62 connection sites for its 250,000 residents, or 23.8 per 100,000 people.

However the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), the project manager for the ReFLEX project, an initiative in Orkney that was part funded by UK Government to make more use of local renewables, disputes the AA figures, estimating the amount of EVs on the island to be much higher – nearer 600.

EMEC’s managing director Neil Kermode said recent DVLA UK statistics on the number of vehicles on the island were also inaccurate “because it allocated leased electric vehicles to the address of the lease company (and therefore local authority)”. In ReFLEX’s case, most of the vehicles brought in were leased, which means the EV figure on Orkney is much higher.

He said this might explain why the AA figures don’t add up.

Mr Kermode also disputed the figure for the number of charging points available on the Scottish archipelago.

“In our experience, most people choose to charge at home, so in rural areas we have seen the biggest uptake of EVs because of the preponderance of off-street parking,” he said. "The 51 chargers cited is therefore a bit of a non-number.”

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He said could be a measure of publicly available chargers, and the number of domestic chargers has not been officially counted.

Since it launched in 2020, ReFLEX has a large impact on the rate of EV growth in Orkney. DVLA figures show that from 2013 to 2021, the average number of EVs increased by about 40 each year.

ReFLEX Orkney has quadrupled that rate of increase, according to its data, bringing more than 200 EVs onto the region 2021 and almost 150 domestic electric vehicle charges.

AA said its research showed a total of 333 areas, including the top four, had seen EV ownership shoot up by more than 50 per cent in the past 12 months.

At the other end of the scale, however, Kingston upon Hull in East Yorkshire has only 203 EVs for a motoring population of around 178,000, giving it 1.1 EVs per 1,000 drivers, according to the car company’s study.

Sandwell, West Midlands, and Blaenau Gwent in Wales, are second and third respectively when it comes to having the lowest EV rate, with both having 1.5 EVs per 1,000 motorists.



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