Published: 15/11/2017 19:00 - Updated: 14/11/2017 11:43

Council will repair electric car chargers

Written byDonna MacAllister

MUCH faster action will be taken to repair faulty charging points for electric cars when levies are brought in, according to a leading Highland councillor.

Vice convener Allan Henderson said council electricians would be trained to fix the machines when they breakdowns.

It comes on the back of his recent announcement that Highland was to become only the second Scottish local authority to start charging motorists for using the machines, which are currently free.

He also expressed confidence that newer models of machines coming down the line in due course will be more reliable.

Retired Highland SNP MSP Dave Thompson, who was recently left high and dry when his electric car ran out of power next to a faulty charging point in Nairn, said most electric car owners expected light charges would come in eventually, and he welcomed the commitment from Cllr Henderson.

He said it would spare frustrated motorists the added angst of having to phone a central belt company and wait days on end for the machine to come back on line.

He added: "If Highland Council is going to start charging then they have got to provide a much better service than they provide just now."

Transport Scotland gave the council a grant to put in charging points in Inverness and Nairn and other towns.

The roll out started in 2015.

The council is responsible for electricity costs as well as maintenance after an initial warranty period.

This means the local authority will start levying a tariff at charging points.

Cllr Henderson said costs were yet to be set but motorists would probably pay about £2-a-time "as opposed to £40 to fill up a tank with petrol".

He said: "Our lighting team are ready and poised to be trained to do the repairs.

"They’re delighted that they are getting the opportunity to be able to train up and be able to help with this."

Mr Thompson, whose Nissan Leaf electric car recently had to make its onward journey from Nairn to Inverness on the back of a pick up truck when the charging machine broke down in Nairn leaving him stranded, sees major benefits to council electricians taking on the repairs.

"At the moment, if I drive up to a machine and it’s not working I have got to phone up the charging company Charge Place Scotland. It’s quite complicated because the council will pass the buck, Charge Place will pass the buck," he said.

"You get passed around and three or four days later an engineer might turn up and fix the machine. They need to get an engineer out the same day."

He added that having the repairs team based here in the Highlands would mean jobs are created locally."

There are 22 charge points across the region and the council’s own figures record an almost doubling of usage.

They were used a total of 7774 times between September 2017 and this August, compared to 4488 for the same period the previous year.

Anne Thomas, issues co-ordinator for the Black Isle Greens and local co-ordinator of Friends of the Earth, was encouraged to see the doubling of use of the electric charge points.

She said: "The plan was always for them to be free initially to encourage their use and then to move to a charging system."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said only one of the 32 local authorities levies a tariff.

She said: "With a tariff set at a reasonable level it is still significantly cheaper to run an electric vehicle compared to a traditional fossil-fuelled vehicle. The Programme for Government sets a bold new vision on ultra-low emission vehicles, with a target to phase out the need for petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032."

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