Surge in Scottish drivers plugging into electric cars

Neil Swanson with his Nissan Leaf. He won a year's free loan, 'but couldn't wait and bought the car. Picture: Greg Macvean
Neil Swanson with his Nissan Leaf. He won a year's free loan, 'but couldn't wait and bought the car. Picture: Greg Macvean
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There has been a huge upsurge in drivers moving over to electric cars in the past year, according to new figures.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reports a jump of more than 80 per cent in the number of pure electric vehicles (EVs) taking to the road since last February. A total of nearly 4,000 plug-in and hybrid vehicles have now been registered north of the border.

The number registered in Edinburgh has been rising rapidly over the past five years. By the end of September last year there were 325 – up from just nine in 2011.

The city hosts nearly a quarter of all licensed plug-in vehicles in Scotland and has more than 140 charge points.

Experts say the trend is being driven by both environmental and financial factors.

Scotland’s new Climate Change Plan has set targets for a 66 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2032 and highlights the sector as a focus for cuts.

Contaminated air, much of it derived from traffic fumes, has been named as the single biggest environmental risk to human health. It has overtaken heart disease, poor diet and even smoking-related diseases as the biggest preventable killer, responsible for more than seven million early deaths worldwide every year – including 40,000 in the UK and 2,500 in Scotland alone.

EV drivers believe making the switch from traditional internal combustion engines is a no-brainer. This was certainly the case for Neil Swanson, an electrical engineer from Edinburgh. He was a dedicated petrolhead until he won a year’s loan of a Nissan Leaf through a competition run by the Energy Saving Trust (EST).

After just a few months he bought one of his own.

Douglas Robertson, a retired engineer and designer from Perth, is another example.

He got his first plug-in car nearly four years ago and has already upgraded.

He says the financial savings alone should be enough to convince anyone to give up their petrol and diesels.

He worked out he’s saving £2,000 a year on his 12,000 miles, compared with the cost of running his previous small diesel car. That amounts to 2,500 free miles a year.

He is so passionate about the technology he is now chairman of the Electrical Vehicle Association Scotland.

And performance is another good reason to go electric, with a smoother ride and instant torque. “It’s like driving the future,” he said.

Scotland’s charging network is also one of the best in Europe and there are plans to continue extending it.

But despite the rise in new registrations of EVs, numbers are still low. “Awareness is probably the main hurdle holding people back. Anyone who takes a test drive in an EV would not go back to diesel,” said Robertson.