Dundee has the highest proportion of electric vehicles in its council fleet in Scotland. APSE Direct spoke to Councillor Lynne Short about her Council’s achievement and future plans for the fleet.
In my role as the convener of Dundee City Council’s city development committee I am one of the people charged with the responsibility of helping to make our dream of becoming a world-class city for electric vehicles a reality.
Not simply for its own sake but because although I honestly didn’t think the city’s air quality was all that bad, since we’ve been collecting samples, having them analysed and comparing and contrasting them with other Scottish and UK cities, it isn’t all that good either.
So in 2011 Dundee became an air quality management area, which gave us access to data, tools and techniques to help to improve our air quality. One of the main sources of air pollution in Dundee, and indeed any other city of any reasonable size, is petrol and diesel vehicles.
Reduce the amount of that type of vehicle and you reduce air pollution, simple right? Well sort of. Encouraging people to change their habits, especially if that habit is associated with issues of identity, personal freedom, mobility and convenience and it becomes a bit more of a challenge.
Factor in the awareness that the air quality issues in our towns and cities is not going to be solved by a single act or a one size fits all approach, and we had to put in some serious thinking. We knew that a multi-modal solution was going to have most impact in the medium to long term, but little bites at the problem wasn’t going to cut it in the short term.
What we wanted was a way of making a significant impact and so we began to usher in the use of electric vehicles in the council’s fleet.
Almost a decade on and Dundee City Council now has the largest fleet of electric vehicles of any local authority in the UK - 95 so far and counting. We are a past winner of Green Fleet magazine’s public sector fleet of the year and low carbon vehicle operator of the year.
Dundee has one of the most extensive charging infrastructures in the UK with one of the Rapid Chargers, which happens to be in Queen Street Broughty Ferry, officially the most used in Scotland, averaging 18 charges per day. It’s also worth noting that the second most used in Scotland is also in Dundee at the city’s ice arena.
It’s no coincidence then that in 2017, TESLA chose Doubletree Hilton in Dundee to install its own strategic charging hub with space for eight of its vehicles.
Talking of charging points the Council owns 144 of them at 94 publicly available charging locations, including Scotland’s first rapid charger. Plans are already approved and work is about to get underway on yet more.
We are planning to bring in a fee for charging an EV in Dundee later this year. Up to now it has been free. The fee will simply cover the council’s costs and despite some concerns that EV owners and drivers might rail against it, so far most take the view that it was inevitable and paying a small price to charge their EV pays back a large environmental divided.
Back in 2015/16 when we only had 45 council electric vehicles they travelled a total of 181,800 miles, that’s the equivalent of 23 times around the world! Those journeys saved around 70 tonnes of CO2, countless particulates and other pollutants and it was that type of irrefutable evidence which helped to persuade me, and other decisionmakers, that electric is the way to go.
Since then, with the support of Transport Scotland, OLEV and some key early-adopting champions in the local taxi trade and public-minded citizens, we’ve progressed towards a cleaner, greener fleet, and with it city.
Among the other initiatives we’ve introduced is to put Council mechanics on dedicated EV training courses to gain recognised qualifications in the repair and maintenance of EVs. That of course not only helps to upskill our workforce and young people for the future but also allows for the continued expansion of the Council’s electric fleet.
But these things have not happened by themselves. Nor have they emerged from a vacuum.
In the first instance it required vision, But in order to make that a reality there followed years of dogged determination and hard work by people in the Council and in a variety of private and third sector partners to make it happen.
Passion and vision are key parts of our upward path, but in the end you have to just do it!
There will be financial and physical barriers. There will be people in your council who will say you shouldn’t. There will be members of your communities who will raise all sorts of objections. There will be reluctance to change, and problems shaking complacent people from behind the wheel of their fossil fuel burning pollutant.
But believe me when I tell you, we had all of that in Dundee…and more! All of these things can be overcome. We did it. We did it quietly.
We did it with determination and a clear and concise vision. We did it by prioritising EVs, charging points and by leading by example.We made it easy for EV owners to charge their vehicles by putting charges at strategic locations around the city, by charging them less money to park, by seizing new technologies and methodologies and by working with like-minded individuals, companies and advocates in our city to make it happen.
Dundee’s air quality is better than it was before we started this journey and it is continuing to improve. Large scale EV use can work. It does work, and contributes significantly towards the multi-modal solution that makes our 26 square miles of the planet an even better place to live, work and do business.
For the latest news and developments in local authority transport services, please contact APSE Principal Advisor Rob Bailey on firstname.lastname@example.org