South Scotland

Dumfries and Galloway Council staff electric car 'anxiety'

electric car
Image caption Dumfries and Galloway Council has four Nissan Leafs in its car pool

A Scottish local authority has admitted that its staff are reluctant to use its pool of electric cars for fear of being stranded with a flat battery.

Dumfries and Galloway Council said some workers were wary of the cars' 100 mile range in the sprawling rural area.

It came as new figures obtained by BBC Scotland revealed that the local authority had spent £57,600 on four electric Nissan Leafs since 2011.

Yet, in total, the cars have covered fewer than 26,000 miles in that time.

A spokesman for the local authority insisted the scheme had been "relatively successful" but admitted levels of usage were "considerably lower" than for conventional cars in its pool.

He added: "Staff have been asked to comment on use of the vehicles, and 'range anxiety' is certainly a consideration.

"The quality of the drive is seen as surprisingly good by those who have not driven an electric vehicle before."

Dumfries and Galloway Council was the first in Scotland to add electric cars to its fleet in a drive, partly, to "inspire residents and local businesses to consider the benefits they bring".

They were part-funded by Transport Scotland as part of a wider scheme to ensure the "decarbonisation" of road transport by 2050.

But data obtained under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act revealed that even the oldest Nissan Leafs in the fleet had each covered fewer than 10,000 miles in four years on the road.

One car built up a mileage of just 1,471 miles over three years. A council spokesman said that the car was allocated to a service department and since the original FOI enquiry, it has been moved to the general pool and now has a mileage of 3,229.

Dumfries and Galloway Council's electric cars. Correct as of 23 March, 2015.
Make Model Status Date in service Annual lease cost Current mileage
Nissan Leaf Leased 20/04/2011 £3436.86 9,659
Nissan Leaf Leased 20/04/2011 £3436.86 9,713
Nissan Leaf Leased 05/04/2012 £5018.40 3,172
Nissan Leaf Leased 05/04/2012 £5018.40 1,471

In contrast, the best-used car in the pool, a Vauxhall Insignia diesel, covered more than 47,000 miles in two years - at a cost of £2,331.49 a year.

A council spokesman said: "The scheme has been relatively successful in introducing electric vehicles (EVs) to this rural area, although clearly the use levels are considerably lower than for conventional vehicles, which are generally within the range of 10,000 to 15,000 miles a year.

"The EVs tend to be used for shorter journeys around Dumfries rather than for travel to more distant locations.

"The reliability of the vehicles in terms of mileage achievable on a charge has greatly improved since these vehicles were produced, as has the availability of public charging points."

Best-used cars in the Dumfries and Galloway Council fleet. Correct as of 23 March 2015
Make Model Status Date in service Annual lease cost Current mileage
Vauxhall Insignia 2.0D ES ECO S/S Leased 01/04/2013 £2331.49 47893
Vauxhall Corsa 1.3CDTI S ECO S/S Leased 03/10/2013 £1281.93 43125
Vauxhall Corsa 1.3CDTI S ECO S/S Leased 18/03/2011 £1461.95 41665
Vauxhall Insignia 2.0D ES ECO S/S Leased 01/04/2013 £2331.49 36900

Transport Scotland claimed that increased use of electric cars could lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, improved air quality, noise pollution and public health.

They said they could also lead to "significant" savings on fuel and other running costs.

Electric cars are exempt from vehicle tax but the local authority said it did not hold information about how much it cost to charge the vehicles.

In figures: Dumfries and Galloway Council's electric cars

£42,124.70 - Funding received from Transport Scotland for the council's four Nissan Leafs

£41,662 - The amount spent by the Scottish government on three new charging points in Annan, Dumfries and Castle Douglas

£129,483.36 - Total spend on diesel for the council's pool of conventional cars in 2014/15

145 - The number of conventional cars operated by the local authority which are in the "free" Band A tax bracket because they emit carbon dioxide emissions of less than 100g/km

18 - Council cars in the relatively low-polluting band B and C tax brackets, costing £20 and £30 a year respectively

A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: "The price premium for electric vehicles (EVs) is reducing as volume production increases and as more models come to market. Used appropriately, EVs can save fleets significant sums on fuel and other running costs, compared to conventional petrol/diesel equivalents.

"Increasing the sustainability of public sector fleets is on-going, for example the current 'Switched On Fleets' initiative offers free, evidence-based analysis to identify new opportunities for the cost effective deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) within Community Planning Partnerships."

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