Plans to phase petrol and diesel vehicles in Scotland by 2032 have been welcomed in the isles – but questions remain over the practicalities.
Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement on Tuesday as part of the Scottish government’s programme for government.
The First Minister revealed the “ambitious target” in Holyrood regarding new petrol and diesel cars, as well as
This, she said was eight years ahead of the UK government and promised more details would follow over the next few months.
These would include information to “massively expand” the number of electric charging points in rural, domestic and urban settings.
A £60 million fund is being made available by the government to “accelerate innovation in new technologies, including low carbon and digital projects by 2020”.
The SIC has installed a dozen charging points across the isles, with six in Lerwick and a further six in more remote areas, on the back of external funding.
Charging points outside of the town include Dunrossness, Baltasound, Bixter, Brae Health Centre, Fetlar and the Ulsta ferry terminal in Yell.
It is currently free to charge up your vehicle, though the council is looking to bring in fees in future.
The SIC’s Mary Lisk, the team leader responsible for carbon management, said technology had developed which was suitable for a rural community.
She noted the Renault Zoe, which could do between 150 and 200 miles on a single charge.
She added a £5,000 grant was available from the Energy Savings Trust for people to install their own charging point at home.
The SIC and NHS are using electric vehicles, taking delivery of five vans to the tune of £60,000 thanks to grant funding from the government.
The local authority has another two vehicles on three-year leases using electric power, again thanks to government funding.
Government funding has been available for householders to install charge points at home, and the SIC said nationally a number of wind turbine owners have been charging vehicles from their own wind power, which it said could be a real opportunity for people in Shetland.
Chairman of the council’s environment and transport committee Ryan Thomson said he was ambitious but called for the community to work together.
“I would suggest that a lot of work needs to be done in Shetland to achieve this, but I would also suggest a lot of work needs to be done nationally.
“I very much welcome the ambition. I would rather it be too ambitious than not ambitious enough.”
Mr Thomson said such proposals emphasised a need for an interconnector cable to import and export electricity from the isles.
As the owner of Tagon Stores, he said the shop received a lot of passing trade from fuel sales, and believed businesses could work with the SIC in future.
“If we know they [petrol and diesel vehicles] are being phased out then we need to start looking to the future and be on our toes to see what we can replace that with.
“I hope that there will be technology if you’re coming into your local shop, and instead of just parking up, you park up and plug into something as you do your shopping.
“The council has a responsibility to liaise with businesses. Working together I think is the only way achieving something as big as this will work.”
Director of infrastructure services Maggie Sandison said the SIC was behind greater use of electric vehicles.
“What we’ve been able to do is access money from the government to put in the infrastructure to support electric vehicles. Every opportunity we get to put more infrastructure to support the transition, then we will be doing that.
“We’ve also accessed money for electric vehicles for the council and we have a number of electric vehicles.
“We will continue to access funding for the council to change because we have felt it is clearly a substantial change and we will have to meet that target.”
Mrs Sandison felt it was a positive step and vehicle manufacturers would develop and invest in technology, with better batteries and charging, the ability to travel further and even the style of vehicles might differ in future.
She said it was important that green energy was used to charge the electricity points. “I think as the transition happens it will allow more green technology to come in because charging vehicles causes a demand,” she said.
Darren Boxwell of Jim’s Garage has experience of selling hybrid vehicles.
He agreed technology was moving at a rapid pace and more people were showing an interest in hybrid vehicles. In the last year the dealer’s sales were “well into double figures”.
He said Toyota had a “plug-in” Prius car though they had not sold one in Shetland, and Mitsubishi also had an electric model.
More car manufacturers, Mr Boxwell said were looking to electric models.
He said: “I think people need to be willing to be prepared for change instead of being stuck in ways of petrol and diesel. They need to expand their minds to electric and hybrid, not avoiding it.”
A sufficient number of charging points would be needed in future, he said.
While there were a few points in Lerwick, he said “if everybody is going to be driving one I think there would need to be more than one at certain locations so there’s not going to be a queue to get use of it.”
According to the DVLA as of April this year there were 29 licensed vehicles in the isles either fully electric or plug in hybrid. This is compared to 16 vehicles at the end of 2015.