Switched on Scotland: A roadmap to widespread adoption of plug in vehicles

7 Sustainable Transport

The Roadmap identified that plug-in vehicles have a significant role to play in creating a sustainable transport network across Scotland. The adoption of a low emission alternative by some of the highest mileage vehicles, such as buses and taxis, will have a significant impact on improving air quality, especially in busy town centres. Plug-in vehicles should replace existing petrol and diesel cars and be aligned with the overall ambition to reduce car use in Scotland, thereby not resulting in increased congestion or a decrease in the use of public transport or active travel.


Plug- in vehicles promote more sustainable transport systems rather than adding to existing problems.

The Scottish Government has made targeted investments to convert high mileage vehicles such as buses, taxis and car clubs to reduce emissions.

The Scottish Green Bus Fund (SGBF) provides the opportunity for interested parties (e.g. operators, local authorities, regional transport partnerships) to bid for a grant to help towards the purchase of new Low Carbon Emission Buses (LCEBs). The Fund, through five rounds, has provided almost £13 million of funding, enabling 269 new LCEBs to join the Scottish fleet. Initiatives such as the SGBF have also contributed to the establishment of Alexander Dennis Limited, based in Falkirk, as a leading supplier of low carbon hybrid-electric buses.

There are more than 20,000 taxis and private hire cars in Scotland, offering further potential for increased adoption of plug-in vehicles. EST's Low Carbon Transport Loan offers an interest-free loan of up to £100,000 to businesses, including licensed taxi and private hire operators, to encourage them to switch to plug-in vehicles. In addition, 'Hackney cab' operators can apply for a loan to replace cabs that are at least eight years old with a lower emission alternative.

Dundee City Council is at the forefront of efforts to introduce ultra-low emission taxis and, with funding from EST, has supported local operators in developing a plug-in taxi fleet of over 30 vehicles. The Council has already made changes to the local licensing regime to encourage drivers to switch to plug-in vehicles and discussions are underway with the industry to introduce further incentives and conditions to promote the use of plug-in taxis in the city.

At present, fewer than half of Scotland's local authorities encourage plug-in vehicles to be licensed as taxis and private hire vehicles. EST are therefore taking forward work to encourage them to review their interpretation of licensing regulations, by sharing good practice and enabling local authority officers, licencing board members and operators to learn from areas such as Dundee and Edinburgh, where plug-ins are already being used as taxis or private hire vehicles.

Scottish car clubs currently have almost 10,000 members and a fleet of over 340 vehicles, across 26 locations. There has also been an increase in peer-to-peer car sharing. The Developing Car Clubs in Scotland programme supported the purchase of new plug-in vehicles into car clubs, resulting in 24% of the Scottish car club fleet being plug-ins. This includes the all-electric E-car, based in St Andrews. In August 2016, there were 81 car club plug-in vehicles in Scotland, more than the rest of the UK combined at that time.[13] This increased the number of members exposed to plug-ins and offered them the freedom to choose the type of vehicle best suited to each journey.

There has also been targeted investment to provide charge points at hubs for multi-modal journeys (see Chapter 6) including: installation of charge points at 11 ferry terminals and as part of the ScotRail franchise agreement, Abellio ScotRail are committed to providing charging facilities at 50 stations across Scotland by the end of 2017.

To incentivise the use of low emission transport and active travel, the Scottish Government and local authorities are working to understand how low emission zones can most effectively be used to improve air quality. The low emission strategy, Cleaner Air for Scotland, outlines the process for establishing the National Low Emission Framework. This framework will include a standard appraisal process for assessing local air quality measures. The options included in the framework are: low emission zones; clean air zones; other access regulation schemes; traffic management; and, vehicle licencing regulations.

In addition, the Scottish Government's Programme for Government, 2016/17, sets a clear commitment to establishing a first Scottish low emission zone by 2018. Allowing plug-in vehicles access to areas where more polluting vehicles are restricted will be a key consideration in the implementation of this commitment.