£33,000 for social work’s electric cars

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A £105,000 grant has meant that social work staff at Scottish Borders Council will get three electric cars to use to visit clients.

Each vehicle, Citroen zeros, costs £33,000 but SBC will pay the price of a conventional vehicle, £8,500, and the remaining £23,000 will be paid with a grant from the Scottish Government Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Support Scheme.

The cars will be based at Kelso, Galashiels and Newton St Boswells; probable charging points will be at the Tait Hall, Kelso; Abbotsford Road, Galashiels, and council headquarters at Newtown St Boswells, each costing £5,000. Other charging points include police stations at Peebles, Hawick and Galashiels and commercial sites at Coldstream (Dalgliesh Garage), Munro Electrical, King Street, Galashiels, and Harrisons Garage, Peebles. However, during the pilot project charging, which takes about four hours, will be done at the social work office charging points.

Each car will only need to be used for 4,595 miles a year to break even as the average running cost is 3p a mile compared with a conventional care mileage cost of 40p; the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders estimate that an electric vehicle will cost between 33p to 45p per mile to purchase, maintain and run for three years.

Council leader, Councillor David Parker explained: “The offer of a grant from Scottish Government is very advantageous for the Borders and would provide us with the funding to install charging points in public areas which would place the Borders in a very good position for the future. Although the cars are more expensive, this project will enable us to assess how efficient and practical electric cars can be and hopefully demonstrate how they can contribute to efficiencies in the future, particularly when the cost of low carbon transport comes down.”

Councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre, executive member for planning and the environment explained: “The source of the electricity is what will really make the cars sustainable. Meanwhile we are at the beginning of the era of electric cars and it is excellent that the council is able to apply this grant. This will make savings in the essential transport for the services given by our social workers.”

The council’s social work department were chosen to pilot the electric car scheme because they were identified as one of the largest car user groups in the council.

Councillor Frances Renton, executive member for social work (social care and health) added: “The social work department is more than happy to engage in this development and support the first initial steps in developing an electric car infrastructure in the Scottish Borders. I think it is a very good example of spending money to hopefully save money in the future and I think it’s a great opportunity not to be missed.”

Councillor Jim Fullarton, executive member for roads and infrastructure, said: “It’s a great trial for social work when it costs £3.36 to fill the tank of the car compared to the current fuel prices. The range of the vehicles is currently a problem and can only be used in the context of a town, but with more charging facilities - it is possible to widen the scope of these vehicles.”

At last week’s meeting of the SBC executive councillors approved the purchase of the three electric cars, agreed that they be used by social work staff, a report provided after they have been in operation for one year, and the council would use £25,000 of capital funds towards the £130,500 cost of the pilot scheme.