More Scots are plugging in electric cars

SALES of electric cars are increasing but still account for just one per cent of the motor trade in Scotland.

Environmental health officer Angela Davis charges a City of Edinburgh Council-owned electric car outside the City Chambers. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Scottish Government is keen to support more people to invest in vehicles not powered by polluting fossil fuels, and more than 600 public charge points have now been installed across the country.

There are also a range of financial incentives to encourage motorists to switch to an electric car. The Energy Saving Trust offers interest-free loans of up to £50,000 to buy a hybrid or electric vehicle under a new fund, while those who do take the plunge can take advantage of full grant funding via the ChargePlace Scotland programme for an electric car charge point to be installed in their home.

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But although sales are up, the number of electric vehicles on the road north of the border remains comparatively low.

There are now more than 600 electric vehicle charging points in Scotland

“In the past year we have seen a 70 per cent rise in sales of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which is in line with the motoring industry,” said Scott Willis, sales director at Arnold Clark Group, the country’s largest car sales firm.

“Although this accounts for only one per cent of overall motoring sales, we do expect this to rise exponentially.”

Glasgow City Council, Scotland’s largest local authority, has installed 64 electric vehicle charging points across the city. This figure will rise to 78 by the end of the year.

A spokeswoman said they were a combination of rapid and fast chargers and the council also had plans to install further charging points in 2016.

The sites are a mixture of on-road, in council owned multi-storey car parks and at sporting venues such as the Emirates Arena in the east end.

Drivers can charge their electric vehicle free of charge in the city.

The scale of the task in convincing motorists that electric cars are as reliable as traditional petrol-powered vehicles was further revealed in February when the RAC Foundation reported that almost half of the charge points in Scotland were unused during one month in 2014.

There was a wide variation across Scotland, with all Edinburgh, Falkirk and Stirling chargers used but none of East Dunbartonshire - where the council had yet to connect its chargers to the mains.

The number of charge points has since increased.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The encouraging news is that electric car sales in the UK are at last showing signs of improvement, but we still have a charging network in Scotland that is running below capacity.

“Part of the reason for installing public charge points is to help drivers overcome their fear of range anxiety, but this does not come cheap.

“This data also suggests a good proportion of charge points are located on private premises including council sites. This is encouraging as it was always envisaged that fleet operators would lead the way in the electric revolution.”

The Nissan Leaf, which is sold for around £21,500, is currently the UK’s most popular electric vehicle, with almost 6,000 cars registered by the third quarter of 2014.