Jewel and Esk College is running an electric vehicle (EV) research programme in partnership with Midlothian Council.
The 12-month trial, part-funded by SEStran (South East Scotland Transport Partnership), will assess four Mitsubishi i-MiEVs in their everyday usage by staff members to provide a comprehensive picture of real-life running costs, practicalities and user requirements.
The data collected will also help policy-makers develop the support infrastructure necessary for the use of EVs by businesses, organisations and individuals in the region.
“There are so many silly, simple questions which need to be answered”, says Professor Steve Tinsley, director of innovation and enterprise at the college, which has campuses in Edinburgh and Dalkeith.
“Simple things like how long the battery will last for, how many miles do I get to a battery charge, how long do I need to recharge and do I need to change my lifestyle to work with this electric car?
“We take a business perspective on this. We’ll look at all the technical stuff, charging times, the range of the vehicle, how it operates in different weather conditions.
“In addition to that, we’ll look at the lifetime costs of the vehicle in terms of its operation. We’ll do a comparison with existing vehicles in use and then that will inform the council fleet car users and other organisations with large fleets of vehicles to make some economic decisions as well as environmental.”
The college team will collect both quantitative data and subjective feedback from the users of the cars, who will be shuttling between the campuses, council offices, into the centre of Edinburgh and out to businesses further afield.
It will then hold seminars and workshops with businesses, community groups and other parties interested in using EVs, and develop guidelines for best safety practice.
Questions to be addressed will include whether car dealers, or fleet managers, will need to assess EV users’ domestic or workplace electricity supplies.
“This is an exploration of green transport that will allow people to make an informed choice”, says Midlothian Councillor Russell Imrie, chair of SEStran. “Let’s have a look at this, let’s see if it works and, if it does, let’s tell people about it.”
The research will also enhance the college’s training of engineers and technicians for the automotive industry.
“We’ve got real facilities to maintain the vehicles and to monitor them”, says Professor Tinsley, “so it works into the curriculum. The information is being fed back to the students, their training is up to date, and they’ll know how to service and maintain electric vehicles.”
After the initial 12-month trial, the plan is for further research involving universities and colleges in Dundee, Angus, Stirling and Perth, to give a national picture of the use of EVs in more rural areas and collect data on existing recharging facilities.
Ultimately, the plan is to develop an Edinburgh equivalent to the Source London programme, a public-private partnership to establish EV charging points.
“It’s only at the discussion stage at the moment”, says Professor Tinsley “but the intention is, with all this information that we’re gathering, to take a view on Source Edinburgh as a project and look at what we would need in terms of additional charging points and who would supply them”.
EV first for Inchcape Fleet Solutions
The four Mitsubishi i-MiEVs are being supplied to Jewel and Esk College in a 12-month contract-hire agreement with Inchcape Fleet Solutions.
“We already have several electric vehicles under management currently, but this contract represents our first multiple order for electric vehicle provision”, says Richard Middleton, sales and marketing director at Inchcape Fleet Solutions.
“We are due to be purchasing at least one electric vehicle for our own fleet before the end of the year and will use our findings to recommend them to suitable clients accordingly.
“Although it is extremely difficult to define specific milestones when dealing with any technology that is still in its infancy, we do have a series of plans to address the electric vehicle agenda with customers and prospects.
“Inchcape Fleet Solutions are not involved directly in Jewel and Esk College’s electric vehicle study but, provided they are happy to do so, would be delighted if they would share their findings so that we can assess the data and make appropriate recommendations to our customers.
“Ultimately, Inchcape Fleet Solutions and Jewel and Esk College share a common goal: to educate interested parties as to the wider suitability of electric vehicles.
“The College is undertaking some fantastic work to provide that education and we believe that when the project has been completed, we will be in a stronger position to make electric vehicles that much more common across Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole.”
Report by Farah Alkhalisi