Innovative electric vehicle charging zones planned for Edinburgh in Scottish first

Strategic charging zones for electric vehicles could be rolled out across the Capital as part of Edinburgh's first Electric Vehicle Action Plan published this month [December].

Charging point for electric vehicles at Drumbrae Library Hub
An electric vehicle charging point at Drumbrae Library Hub

The innovative zonal approach to charging hubs - believed to be the first of their kind in Scotland - are one of five key strategic objectives in the Council's Action Plan, which will be considered by members of the Transport and Environment Committee on 7 December 2017. Electric vehicles are a key priority in the Council’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions across the city. 

Electric vehicle uptake is rising rapidly across the UK and Edinburgh has more than 23% of all licensed electric vehicles in Scotland. 

In 2011, there were only nine electric vehicles in the Capital, compared with 489 by June 2017. Charging points also increased from eight in 2013 to 89 by October 2017, of which 58 are publicly available. 

Compared to conventional cars, electric vehicles emit substantially fewer carbon emissions. The vehicles are also cleaner with far fewer exhaust emissions, meaning they deliver direct air quality improvements.

In September 2017, the Scottish Government announced a major expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure across Scotland by 2022, coupled with a phasing out of all new fossil fuel vehicles by 2032. 

Transport and Environment Convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes said: "It's very encouraging how many Edinburgh residents and organisations are demonstrating their commitment to both reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality in the city by opting for electric vehicles over fossil-fuelled ones. This new Action Plan will help the Council and our partners maximise the benefits and opportunities of this cleaner, greener option. It will provide many more opportunities for residents and visitors to charge their cars easily and we hope this will let even more people think of switching to an electric car.

"Electric vehicles are only part of the solution to worsening air quality, however, alongside the other key elements of our wider sustainable transport agenda for the Capital such as promoting use of public transport and active travel like walking and cycling."   

Edinburgh's Electric Vehicle Action Plan refers to electric vehicles in a collective sense to include full battery electric, plug in hybrid and Ultra Low Emission Vehicles. This is the first such programme for the city for the next 12-18 months and has five strategic objectives:

- developing strategic electric vehicle charging hubs
- taking a co-ordinated approach across the Council;
- collaborating with partners;
- trialling integrated smart grid charging systems; and
- encouraging wider e-mobility opportunities

The Plan proposes three strategic charging zones: Zone 1 (City Centre), which would focus on rapid charging points both on and off-street and looking at reserving use of some for the sole use of taxis, car club vehicles and public sector fleets; Zone 2 (Residential area), prioritising charging infrastructure in high density areas (eg tenements) and encouraging electric car club vehicles; and Zone 3 (Peripheral area), targeting Park and Ride sites and creating a strategic charging infrastructure ring around the periphery of the city.

In developing infrastructure across these zones, there are some issues and complexities in installing the appropriate chargers. A key action therefore, is the development of a strategic Business Case for EVs that will look at the following issues across the three zones:

•            the traffic movements;

•            the number of potential charging points to meet future                demand;

•            the best location for these;

•            the type of chargers required;

•            any challenges in installing the infrastructure; and

•            the level of investment needed and potential revenue streams.

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