Plugged in Falkirk Project on track despite district having worst access to electric car charging points in Scotland

Falkirk Council aims to provide an additional 106 electric vehicle charging bays to help improve access across the district

Tuesday, 7th July 2020, 7:36 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th July 2020, 7:37 am
The Falkirk Stadium Charging Hub
The Falkirk Stadium Charging Hub

Falkirk is behind the curve in Scotland on the green transport revolution, latest figures suggest, with the worst access to electric car charging points.

This is despite the council’s £2.5 million Plugged in Falkirk Project, announced last September, which will see more than 100 electric vehicle charging bays being built across the region by May 2021.

At the start of April, according to Department for Transport (Dft) data, there were just 27 public charging devices in Falkirk district.

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That’s a rate of 17 per 100,000 people – the lowest in Scotland, where the figure stood at 38.

The local rate was also well below the UK average of 27.

The DfT said the regional distribution of devices across the UK was uneven, with some councils having bid for government funding, while others had not.

Scotland's rate put it first out of the UK's four nations for accessibility.

The area has added four new devices to its supply since the last count in October, when there were 23.

The DfT data is sourced from the electric vehicle charging platform Zap-Map, which say it covers 95 per cent of publicly accessible devices.

Some units can only charge one car at a time, while others can deal with multiple vehicles simultaneously.

However, a spokesman for Falkirk Council said there are actually 32 operational charge points in the Falkirk Council area and there have been 15 new installations since October, including the completion of the new Low Carbon Vehicle Hub at Falkirk Stadium.

They said the Covid-19 pandemic had meant the Plugged in Falkirk initiative, which is supported by the Scottish Government’s Switched on Towns and Cities Challenge Fund, had faced some delays in recent months, but work was expected to begin again at the start of July.

The spokesman said: “There has obviously been a delay in providing new electric vehicle chargers due to Covid-19 as we have not been able to carry out installation works.

“We are waiting for revised timescales from our contractor and Scottish Power Energy Networks.

“The project is still on track to have all chargers operational by May 2021.”

The plans also include a 32-bay charging hub in Meeks Road, Falkirk, as well as plug-in points in the town’s Bantaskine Road, Kemper Avenue, West Bridge Street, Williamson Street and at Falkirk Community Hospital.

EV drivers will also be able to charge their cars using facilities at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert and Millennium Wheel Drive, Camelon.

As part of the funding package, an EV car club will be set up as a two-year pilot scheme, providing ten vehicles for public use situated in locations with existing or planned EV infrastructure.

An extra five chargers will be installed in Larbert, Stenhousemuir, Bainsford and Westquarter.

An additional 12 charges will also be installed in a further nine locations as part of the ChargePlace Scotland programme.

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “One of the myths we urgently need to clear up is a perceived lack in charging points.

“However, if drivers feel they cannot find a charge point then more needs to be done.”

Better signage for the devices could make them easier for motorists to spot, he suggested, as well as finding solutions for those who want to charge their car at home but do not have off-street parking.

He added: “Encouraging drivers to make the switch to electric cars will also encourage both councils and businesses to install charging infrastructure.

“We believe that further incentives are required to ease the transition to lower-emission vehicles, such as cutting VAT on the sale of certain vehicles or targeted scrappage schemes.”

The Daily Telegraph recently reported that Boris Johnson is considering launching plans to give drivers up to £6000 to exchange their petrol or diesel car for an electric model.

Of the devices in Falkirk, six were “rapid” charging points, which can crank most electric car batteries up to 100 per cent in under half an hour.

There were 3100 of these across the UK at the start of April.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said the issue for drivers was less about the number of chargers and more about whether they work and are easy to use.

He added: “It’s high time connecting to a charge point proved no more challenging than pulling onto a service station forecourt to fill up with petrol and pay with your credit card."

A DfT spokesman said: “Accessing charge points has never been easier and we want to make it easier still, with a further £10 million to install chargers.

“The Government is considering the long-term future of incentives for zero-emission vehicles alongside our consultation on bringing forward the end to the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans.”

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