SCOTLAND’s white van men may not yet be turning green. But, at last, they have the chance to do so.
That is because a first fast-charging point has been installed outside some Clydeside lock-ups used by tradespeople.
Far from just being for electric cars, this modest development marks a crucial milestone in combating global heating.
As Glasgow and Scotland move towards zero-net carbon – the city last week committed to getting there by 2030 – this is going to have to be how a slowly emerging new generation of commercial vehicles are charged.
Transport accounts for 37 per cent of Scotland’s emissions of greenhouse gas. Light commercial vehicles, in turn, make up 12.5% of transport’s share – nearly as much as aviation’s 15%.
According to the Scottish Government, vans are nearly as responsible for global heating as aircraft so getting small businesses to go electric is crucial.
Electricity giant ScottishPower and self-storage firm Storage Vault have formally announced a partnership that will initially see the installation of two 22kW charging points for electric vehicles (EVs) in Cambuslang.
This is part of ScottishPower’s ongoing efforts to help businesses de-carbonise their fleets and encourage the uptake of EVs across Scotland.
The company said it was spending
£7 million every working day on the development of technologies designed to achieve a cleaner, electric future.
It also said it was “developing a range of charging solutions to help meet the needs of all sizes of businesses and make it easy for them to install EV charging”.
Jamie Elliot, SP’s head of electric vehicle charging, said: “Our partnership with Storage Vault is an exciting opportunity and helps us to demonstrate how we can help businesses transition to low carbon forms of transport.
“We know that fleet emissions are an important consideration for any company, and we want to help make the shift to electric vehicles as easy and
cost-effective as possible. “
The announcement comes as manufacturers such as English-based Arrival start to produce workable electric vans.
Anthony McAteer, managing director at Storage Vault, said: “The majority of our customers drive cars and vans, and we expect the usage of electric vehicles to increase over the coming years.
“Providing charging points was a no-brainer for us, and will not only help us to future-proof our business as we shift towards a low-carbon economy but will also support our customers as they do the same.
“We hope that this will be the beginning of a positive step-change for companies who want to decrease their carbon footprint.
Earlier this year, ScottishPower announced it would be working with Glasgow City Council to make Glasgow the first net-zero city in Scotland, with a particular focus on installing more EV charging points.
Experts know they need ordinary businesses to make a decision to switch. And that means they have to be confident they can get a power source.
Mr McAteer added: “Demand for electric cars is growing rapidly – and small businesses should be paying attention. First of all, de-carbonising your business is good for your bottom line – running costs are cheaper but there are also tax breaks and grants from the Government to support wider usage of EV.
“Clever businesses will already see the strategic advantages of being early adopters. The consumer trend of choosing the green option is increasingly popular, making it financially practical to go eco-friendly.”
Andrew McRae, of the Federation of Small Businesses, echoed this view. He said: “The switch to lower carbon transport will create huge challenges but also opportunities for Scotland’s small business community.
“It’ll require both public and private investment and therefore it is pleasing to hear that some firms are looking to the future.”
Glasgow already has a low emissions zone, or LEZ. Businesses are starting to realise their fossil fuel fleets may no longer be fit for purpose in urban centres. “LEZs in Scotland’s major cities will mean thousands of firms may have to consider upgrading their vehicles”, Mr McRae added. “If we want them to switch from diesel or petrol vehicles to electric vehicles we’re going to need to see a significant upgrade in local facilities.
“We’re also looking for the Scottish Government to flesh out the details associated with the scrappage funding they promised last year. But it isn’t just about cities. We need to see more low carbon infrastructure in Scotland’s local towns too.”
Anna Richardson, a councillor who is leading Glasgow’s 2030 zero-net carbon effort, said: “We currently have over
130 charging points in the city and we are aiming to double that in the near future. We are also looking at creating a charging hub for electric taxis, extending the availability of electric vehicles within the city’s car club hire scheme and trialling the use of lighting columns as charging points.
“But to meet the anticipated growth in demand for electric vehicles, it is essential that the private sector also contributes to the expansion in charging infrastructure to support their employees and customers.
“It’s great to see businesses beginning to switch to electric vehicles and come on board with the effort to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.”
The Scottish Government has also vowed to phase out all new petrol and diesel cars by 2032 and continues to grant funding to alternative car ownership schemes, such as electric vehicle car clubs.
However, ScottishPower has already warned that there is a risk rural Scotland could miss out. Its chief executive, Keith Anderson, previously told The Herald that the industry regulator would need to take a “different path” when it comes to approving plans to update the electricity system, to ensure Scotland is ready for when consumer demand “flips” to plug-in vehicles.