We’ve gone electric…will you?

Wee Green Machine at Library

Ever seen our “Wee Green Machine” driving around town? It has been used by the University’s Grounds Team since 2009, and is soon to be joined by two brand new electric vans! Once delivered in a few weeks time, all the University’s mail and catering will be delivered with a little help from some clean, green energy.

To coincide with the expansion of our fleet of electric vehicles (EVs), three new dual socket EV charging points have been installed at the Bute Building, David Russell Apartments, and Agnes Blackadder Hall, and are available for all staff and students to use for FREE!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALook out for posts like these popping up on campus!

Although two of the six available charging spaces will be used to serve the University’s mail and catering vans, the other spaces are freely available for use by any member of the University community in line with our strategic commitment to reducing transport carbon emissions.

All you need to do to use one of the charging points is to register for a “charging card” to enable access to the charging facilities with provider Charge Your Car here.

If you’ve never considered going electric before, why not check out our interview with PhD student and long-term EV convert, Euan, to get the lowdown on what it’s like to drive one, and keep up to date on the latest EV news and reviews over at EV Association Scotland.

Electric Vehicles Impress

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Front profile of the new Nissan Leaf EV

What would your commute feel like in an electric vehicle?

To find out the answer I met with the University’s Electrochemistry PhD researcher Euan McTurk to discuss his vintage Peugeot 106 electric vehicle (“EV” to the uninitiated) which he has been using on his commute from Dundee to St Andrews.

After thirteen years of TLC his 106 still works like a charm, and surprisingly, is very fast off the line! Recently he replaced the original nickel-cadmium battery with a new lithium ion pack which takes him 60 miles per charge – well more than enough to cover the distance there and back.  Euan had the option to fit larger pack that offers a range of over 100 miles but found that the smaller pack was sufficient for his needs.

Euan discusses ‘EV etiquette’, a phase he uses to refer to the particular issues of being an EV owner. For example, while out on our test drive around town, we stopped at the new electric charging station in Argyle Streetcar park. With only two available spaces for electric vehicles at the charger, Euan reminds me that EV users must be respectful of others and avoid parking at public chargers for longer than they need to so as not to cause others to wait at the charger for extended periods. This is only rarely an issue however, as I soon learn that a rapid charger can replenish a battery in as little as 20 minutes – comparable even to waiting in line at a petrol station!

“Nissan Leaf – best car I’ve ever driven”

Euan has a passion for all things electric and is quick to update me on the improvements in EV technology and design since his 106 version originally came out in 1995. While a number of new models are in production, Euan highly recommends the Nissan Leaf line which comes equipped with the latest comforts and tech – compromising nothing, while gaining impressive EV credentials that blow hybrids out of the water! In fact the fellow EV we met at the charging point was one of a fleet of Nissan Leafs used by Fife Council.

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The new electric charging point for St Andrews located in Argyle Street carpark

Why choose an electric vehicle?

With no operating pollution from exhaust (thus no emissions of CO2, nitrogen and sulphur oxides, or other gases emitted by a convenient petrol engine that contribute to global warming, smog, and pollution), and no reliance on fossil fuels (if using renewably sourced electricity) and the economic and political controversies associated with oil production, EV’s are one of the greenest forms of transport. These are huge benefits that if replicated on a large scale have the potential for making a dramatic influence on society-wide ecological and carbon footprints.

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Electrochemistry PhD researcher Euan McTurk takes us for a testride in his vintage Peugeot 106 electric vehicle

Top tips for going electric

During my hour with Euan I realised there are few downsides to EV’s and many benefits. Here are some to keep in mind when you consider test driving an EV for your next car!

Pros

  • Excellent environmental credentials: Euan reckons that even the footprint of building and running a new EV is several tonnes less than the footprint of using an existing petrol car over the 8+yrs of the EV battery’s lifetime,
  • Great new models to choose from with all the latest comforts and tech,
  • Falling prices of EV’s as the market increases and technology improves,
  • Better technology, especially with regards to battery lifetime and charge – meaning you can go further, recharge quicker, and increase overall efficiency.
  • Vastly reduced running costs versus petrol and diesel cars; Euan’s commute, which uses 100% electricity from renewable energy, costs £1 per day, saving him £700 a year on fuel costs alone, and more when you factor in the free car tax and reduced maintenance bills!

Cons

  • Cost is generally higher than a similarly designed petrol car (e.g. a new Nissan Leaf goes for c£17,000) but prices are expected to continue decreasing,
  • EV’s can only take you so far before needing a recharge; luckily this is getting easier and easier as batteries become more efficient, more charging points become available (like our new charge point in St Andrews), and rapid chargers decrease charging times.  Additionally, some manufacturers give EV buyers the opportunity to borrow a petrol or diesel car for a few days a year to cover the odd trip that is outwith the range of the EV.

If you, or a friend, commute with an EV please let me know – I would love to hear about your experiences as well! (contact directly at environment@st-andrews.ac.uk)

For the latest on EV news, charging point locations, and reviews visit EV Association Scotland at http://www.eva-scotland.org/.