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Electric car streets ahead in Cairngorms National Park

16th November 2009

The first electric vehicle to be used in a rural community has been unveiled in the Cairngorms National Park today (Monday 16 November). The unique project has been given the seal of approval by Fergus Ewing MSP, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Community Safety.

Fergus Ewing MSP was on hand to test drive the Cairngorms Electric Vehicle (EV) from Aviemore to Kingussie High School  – where pupils there have been building and racing their very own electric go-kart  –  for the official launch of the Clim-ATIC Cairngorms Electric Vehicle project.

Commenting on the eye-catching car – an adapted five-door Vauxhall Astra – which features the distinctive Cairngorms brandand colours, he said: “This is the first time I’ve driven an electric car and I’m very impressed with the work that’s gone in fromall partners involved.”

The Cairngorms EV project is one of four initiatives happening in the Cairngorms National Park under the banner of Clim-ATIC – an EU Northern Periphery Programme project aimed at helping communities adapt to the effects of climate change, led by the Centre for Mountain Studies at Perth College UHI.

Speaking at the official launch of the EV project this morning Fergus Ewing added: “I am delighted to be here today to hand over the keys of the Cairngorms EV to the Badenoch and Strathspey Community Transport Company. We want Scotland to be at the forefront of building a sustainable low carbon economy of the future – to do that we need more great projects like this one in the Cairngorms. I hope that this will be a catalyst for action right across the country.”

The Cairngorms EV project is a partnership initiative being led by the Cairngorms National Park Authority and Perth College UHI with support from Hitrans (the Highland Regional Transport Partnership), Community Energy Scotland, the Climate Challenge Fund and local schools and colleges.

It is being road tested by the Badenoch and Strathspey Community Transport Company (BSCTC) – a local charity helping people who do not have access to transport to get to local services such as doctors, dentists and shopping. Volunteers use their own cars to transport the charity’s clients around Badenoch and Strathspey from Tormore in the north to Laggan and Dalwhinnie in the south. Volunteer drivers will substitute their own car for the EV and report back on its effectiveness in these rural communities.

Maggie Lawson of the BSCTC commented: “Our volunteers are delighted to be testing the car in our rural environment and very excited to be part of a project which is working towards reducing our carbon footprint.”

David Green, Convener of the CNPA said: “This is a very exciting project for everyone involved. Testing of electric vehicles hasn’t really happened outside of cities so I think what we are doing here is innovative and really quite brave! The core of the project is obviously about tackling and adapting to climate change but the electric car is helping us to meet many other aims in  the National Park Plan from promoting sustainable transport to ensuring that we truly are a Park for All by combating social inclusion issues, which is why we have made the link with the award-winning Badenoch and Strathspey Community Transport Company.”

The Cairngorms Electric Vehicle (EV) is capable of 110kph (70mph), 140km (100 miles) range has 5 gears and while acceleration is similar to a diesel car, it costs 10 per cent of a diesel car to run. It plugs in via a standard 13amp plug, re charging in around 10 hours and it can also tow its own wind turbine on a trailer for charging anywhere. Outdoor recharging points have already been installed at the offices of the BSCTC in Aviemore and the CNPA’s offices in Grantown-on-Spey and plug points will also be installed at volunteer drivers’ homes.

The main difference with driving the EV is the noise – about half the noise a car makes is from the engine, the rest from tyre contact with the road. Volunteer drivers with the BSCTC will have to be particularly aware of other road users and pedestrians and they will receive additional training designed especially for users of electric cars.

Clive Bowman, Clim-ATIC programme leader said: “Through the Cairngorms EV project we hope to demonstrate that EV’s have a place in rural as well as city locations, raising the profile of non-fossil fuelled and community-owned cars in general. Electric may not be the answer everywhere, but we want to demonstrate that there are alternatives to using fossil fuels, which will help the National Park’s communities adapt to climate change. While encouraging more bus and rail travel is essential to combat the effects of global warming we also think there is a place for shared transport – as demonstrated so effectively by the Badenoch and Strathspey Community Transport Company – and hopefully, their trial of the EV will be prove  to be a success.”

A second phase of the Cairngorms EV project will get underway in 2010 with the installation of Elektrobay recharge points in key areas of the National Park. These will allow on-street recharging by the Park’s own EV but also by any other privately owned electric cars, adding to the network of recharge points already in place.