Falkirk will help drive forward a national initiative encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles after work began on a new charging hub in the town.
The construction of the Falkirk Gateway Low Carbon Vehicle Hub officially got under way at The Falkirk Stadium on Monday after the local authority was awarded more than £500,000 from the Transport Scotland Low Carbon Travel and Transport Challenge Fund.
With the cash coming from the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund, the hub will offer 24/7 access to 26 plug-in points, all powered by renewable energy sourced from a solar panel canopy.
The work, expected to be completed by the end of the year, is part of the government’s Switched on Towns and Cities Challenge Fund and Local Authority Installation Programme which promote the use of ultra-low emission electric vehicles.
A total of £12.1 million has been handed to five local authorities, including Falkirk Council, through the first round of the initiative, which will result in the creation of a further 500 public charging points.
On top of that, the latest phase of the Local Authority Installation Programme will see 31 councils receive a total of £8.5 million in funding throughout the financial year to deliver around 300 charge points.
The primary aim of the programme is to give e-vehicle drivers greater range confidence when taking to the roads that their nearest charging facility isn’t too far a drive away.
Drivers of electric vehicles in Scotland already enjoy the “most extensive” charging network in Britain, with plug-in points located, on average, every 2.5 miles — almost double that compared to England and Wales.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson, who is also the MSP for Falkirk West, visited The Falkirk Stadium to break ground on the construction site of the new charging hub.
He said: “The hub will be absolutely critical to the local community in making sure we have the right infrastructure in place to support people.
“As it stands, Scotland has the most extensive charging network within the whole of the UK.
“You only have to travel about 2.5 miles in Scotland to get to a public charging point. That’s considerably better than any other part of the UK. Whereas in England and Wales it is over 4 miles.
“It’s a very innovative approach that the council are taking forward in developing this proposal.
“Not only will it provide the 26 charging points for the public to use, it’s also going to be powered by solar panels so it’s a renewable process that’s going to be used to deliver the electricity for this particular site.
“It’s an example of the type of innovation that we’re looking for right across the country.
“We made a commitment to deliver the A9 Electric Highway so that if you travel from Falkirk right up to Scrabster in the north of the country you’ll be able to charge your car. Creating the hub here at The Falkirk Stadium is a key part of delivering on that commitment.”
Mr Matheson continued: “Supporting the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles is integral to Scotland’s sustainable economic growth.
“Electric vehicles are a key component of our Climate Change Plan and our goal of making Scotland’s air quality the best in Europe. That is why we have set our ambitious target to phase out the need to purchase new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032.”
Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, Falkirk Council leader, said: “The new hub will ensure that residents and visitors alike will have 24/7 access to charging points at a central location. It’s something we want to see expanded and we know will make a difference to our environment.”
John Bynorth, of Environmental Protection Scotland, said: “People are more aware of the environmental benefits of electric vehicle ownership and the costs of buying the vehicles are coming down.
“We welcome the funding announcement which will help make range anxiety for electric vehicle drivers a thing of the past and further accelerate ownership of electric vehicles.”