Local authority bright sparks are using electric cars to try and drive down their carbon footprint.
The future is now for Falkirk Council, which has just become the proud owner of four fossil fuel-free vehicles, initially to be used by staff for environmentally-friendly travel between council depots.
Falkirk Council’s entire fleet, some 500 vehicles, is now operating with reduced-emission technology, but Andrew Wilson, policy and community planning manager, said officers and employees were excited about embracing the electric technology, adding they had to remain realistic about the effectiveness of the vehicles.
He said: “At the moment there is a limited range of just under 100 miles which the vehicles can travel before they run out of charge. That could be problematic if you were looking to travel outside the Falkirk Council area.”
Drivers of the two Citroen C Zeros and two Nissan Leaf models will not exactly be able to pull up and ask a resident if they can plug into a household socket to charge up if they run out of juice – so the council could be creating more carbon emissions by employing a truck to go out and recover the fizzled out vehicles.
So, for now, the electric cars, paid for through a £155,000 Scottish Government grant and £42,000 from the council, will stay within safe range of charging points at the Municipal Buildings and main council offices in Abbotsford House, Bainsford, and Earls Road, Grangemouth.
The Citroen C Zero draws its power from 88 lithium-ion cells stowed beneath the floor and takes six hours to supply from a household supply or considerably less from a commercial power point. Manufacturers claim it can reach speeds of up to 80mph and has a comfortable range of 80 miles.
The Nissan Leaf takes around seven hours to gain a full charge and enjoys a similar top speed and range to the C Zero.
Importantly, charging the electric vehicles will be a fraction of the cost of buying petrol at current high prices.
Councillor Craig R. Martin, convener of environment and community safety, said: “These electric cars will allow Falkirk Council to reduce our fuel costs and trial the use of this exciting technology - to find out how it could deliver a more environmentally friendly and efficient fleet for the future.
“We are fully committed to reducing our carbon footprint and have a comprehensive five-year carbon management plan in place. This will achieve a 20 per cent reduction in carbon emissions and save the council thousands of pounds which we can re-invest into front line services.”
Vehicles powered by electricity are nothing new – the very first electric cars date back to the mid-19th century – but the availability of petroleum and improvement in internal combustion technology saw them take a back seat to petrol-powered vehicles.
In recent years increased concerns over the environmental impact of petrol cars, higher petrol prices and improvements in battery technology have brought a renewed interest in electric cars, which are widely seen as being more environmentally friendly and cheaper to maintain and run.