SCOTLAND’S largest research project into the use of electric cars has more than doubled in size.
The project, launched last August, examines how long the vehicles can run on one charge, how cost effective they are and how they perform in different conditions.
Experts said results of the study, being run by Jewel and Esk College, will be crucial to the vehicles becoming a viable option for motorists.
Researchers said they want to build public confidence in electric cars and ultimately make them “mainstream” across Scotland.
Four cars were initially distributed in Edinburgh and Dalkeith but a further five have since been put into use. Three charging points have been built by students and staff at the college.
The Mitsubishi i-MiEV cars are being used by the college’s Edinburgh and Dalkeith campuses, Stevenson College, Midlothian Council’s headquarters in Dalkeith, East Lothian College, Telford College, Napier University and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).
An event next month, organised by The Scotsman Conferences and Jewel & Esk College, will unveil the results of the first six months of the study.
Professor Tariq Muneer, an expert in electric vehicles at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “This kind of project is crucial in the future of electric vehicles because the results – both the hard data and comments by users of the vehicles – can help us to identify the challenges that remain, and to figure out how to tackle them.
“It is real projects like this – tied in with relevant skills – that will help drive the electric vehicle agenda forward by building public confidence in the technology.”
The 12-month study is part of a planned renewable energy and low-carbon technologies centre in the merged Jewel & Esk, Stevenson and Telford colleges.
Project leader, Professor Steve Tinsley, director of innovation and enterprise at Jewel & Esk College, said they hope to have ten charge points on campus eventually.
“This is a significant research project, but is also allowing students to learn the skills that will be needed when the electric vehicle market takes off,” he said.
“It is clear that electric vehicles have a significant part to play in our transport future.
“The opportunity for apprenticeships and student scholarships take this far beyond any typical electric vehicle project. We are very excited about the potential to share knowledge and resources across the private and public sectors in an attempt to find solutions.”
He added: “There seems to be demand from consumers and business for electric vehicles but a lack of knowledge – and a lack of critical mass in terms of charging points.”
The conference on 28 March will address issues such as upfront costs of electric vehicles, availability of charge points, and driver anxiety over the distance they can cover, said organisers. Transport minister Keith Brown will be amongst the speakers.
SQA facilities manager Simon Parsons said more staff are using their vehicle in the project..
The South East Scotland Transport Partnership has funded the project £25,000 with support from the Scottish Government and Midlothian Council.