A UNIQUE project combining education, skills and electric cars will test whether or not the vehicles can change the way we drive in Scotland.
The initiative, led by Jewel & Esk College with financial support from transport partnership SEStran, was launched on Friday August 19 at the college’s campus in Dalkeith, Midlothian.
Four i-MiEV cars, supplied by Mitsubishi, and four charging points, supplied by Siemens, will be located at Jewel & Esk’s two campuses in Edinburgh and Midlothian, as well as Stevenson College in Sighthill, Edinburgh, and Midlothian Council HQ in Dalkeith.
Employees at the colleges and council will use the cars for work journeys – with the aim of finding how long they run on one charge, what the drivers think of the vehicles, how they perform in different conditions, and if they are cost-effective. College students and staff will collect and evaluate information during the 12-month project.
As well as supplying the cars, Phoenix Mitsubishi will also fund scholarships at the college, which is developing a Centre for Excellence in renewable energy and low carbon technologies. The aim is to enhance this specialism in the new super-college for the Edinburgh city region being created by the merger of Jewel & Esk and Stevenson.
The project is supported by the Scottish Government and funded by SEStran, the South East Scotland Transport Partnership, to the tune of £25,000, with an additional contribution by Midlothian Council. There are also plans to develop a smartphone app to share knowledge about electric vehicles.
Mandy Exley, Principal at Jewel & Esk and the driving force behind the project, said: “This exciting project links the college firmly to electric vehicle technology in the long-term. It aims to raise awareness of electric vehicles and their potential. With petrol and diesel costs rising and greater environmental know-how, drivers are looking at alternatives – and will certainly be interested if the cars are cost-effective to run and easy to charge. We want to hold seminars and training programmes to ensure this project raises awareness of best practice around electric vehicle technology.”
SEStran Partnership Director, Alex Macaulay said: “The Scottish government has the most ambitious carbon reduction targets in the world. While we can and do promote alternative modes of transport that are more carbon efficient, like use of public transport and cycling, the potential of alternative fuels needs to be explored. With Scotland’s high proportion of electricity generation from, non-carbon fuels, and this set to increase, the use of electric cars must be fully investigated. SEStran is happy to support this project that will put South East Scotland in the driving seat of developing electric car schemes.”
Russell Forbes, Dealer Principal at Phoenix Mitsubishi’s Edinburgh showroom, said: “We are delighted to be partners in this project. Phoenix Mitsubishi Edinburgh, as a result of our relationship with Jewel & Esk, is now also sponsoring student scholarships within the college. This mutually beneficial relationship will allow students to gain ‘real world’ experience of the motor industry whilst engaged in their studies.
“We believe the more familiar people become with the use of the electric vehicles, and all the benefits, the greater the uptake will be. As more empirical data becomes available to dispel any negative preconceptions that may exist about the use of electric vehicles, it follows that the uptake will continue to improve as confidence grows. Confidence will be bolstered further as the ‘Plugged In Places Scheme’ gains momentum in Scotland which will ultimately see hundreds of vehicle charging points being installed across Scotland.”
Siemens, which is providing the charging points for the project, is a world leader in electric vehicle technology – and is in discussions with Jewel & Esk College about developing a long-term relationship.
Professor Steve Tinsley, Director of Innovation and Enterprise at Jewel & Esk College, said: “The involvement of Mitsubishi and its funding of scholarships takes this far beyond any typical electric vehicle project. We are very excited about the potential of a project which shares knowledge and resources across the private and public sectors in an attempt to find solutions.
“There seems to be demand from consumers and business for electric vehicles but a lack of knowledge – and a lack of critical mass in terms of charging points. The automotive industry is looking electric vehicle technology and we are working with industry to really get things moving.”
Scotland’s Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “The Scottish Government is committed to achieving the almost complete decarbonisation of road transportation by 2050, along with a mature market for low carbon cars – resulting in lower emissions by 2020. That is why we welcome public-private sector initiatives such as this just as we are pressing ahead with similar schemes to enable us to achieve our world leading targets. We have invested £3.3m in our Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Support Scheme which is currently being rolled out across all Scottish local authorities and a number of other public sector organisations. More can be done and that is why we continue to see ways to address the challenges of reducing emissions.”
Richard Middleton, Sales and Marketing Director at Inchcape Fleet Solutions, which leased the vehciles to the college, said: “Signing our first electric vehicle contract is a fantastic milestone for Inchcape Fleet Solutions and really demonstrates the variety in our fleet offering. Looking at the bigger picture, it is particularly pleasing for us that our contract with Jewel and Esk College means we can jointly raise electric vehicle awareness across Scotland.”
For more information: www.jec.ac.uk