Does Your Local Council Drive Electric? New Interactive Report Names, Shames, and Congratulates

Sending positive, warm messages to the local press and electorate, politicians and electric cars are a well-known winning combination.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a tiny town in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, a massive municipality on the U.S. east coast, or a forward-thinking, tech-friendly hub of manufacturing excellence: electric cars are generally considered good publicity.

As a consequence, very few weeks pass by where we don’t hear about some local government project or other somewhere in the world including either electric car charging stations, pilot projects or purchase schemes — but how many governments and municipalities around the world actually practice what they preach?

More places are offering and supporting electric car charging -- but are local councils operating the electric vehicles they're asking us to drive?

More places are offering and supporting electric car charging — but are local councils operating the electric vehicles they’re asking us to drive?

Sadly, we can’t give you a comprehensive, worldwide view on which governments support electric and zero-emission cars by driving them, but thanks to a UK firm we can give you a comprehensive view of which of the UK’s 433 regional county and city councils own and operate electric cars. And while you might think compact, inner-city councils in metropolitan areas like London and Birmingham would top the list, those north of the border in Scotland are leading the way when it comes to dumping the pump.

Practice what you preach?

Enter Intelligent Car Leasing, a nationwide car private leasing and contract hire company based in Glasgow, Scotland. Offering a range of hybrid and plug-in cars to customers on lease deals alongside conventional diesel and gasoline-powered cars, the company submitted information requests to each of the 433 regional councils in the UK under the Freedom of Information Act of 2000.

Its question? The number of road-legal electric-powered vehicles currently owned, managed or leased by each and every council. To clarify, the request included the stipulation that electric-powered meant any vehicle which runs solely on electric power alone, while ‘road-legal’ refers to vehicles which are registered to drive on public roads rather than ones which can only be used on private land.

The results make for some interesting reading.

Scotland leads

While Intelligent Car Leasing says it is still waiting for around five percent of those councils and authorities surveyed to respond, just over one third of the 433 councils it has received information from say they have at least one electric vehicle registered for council use.

That leaves the majority of councils in the UK without a single plug-in car in its fleet, despite many councils having their own public charging network for residents and visitors to use.

Scottish councils lead, with five of the top ten councils for EV adoption being there.

Scottish councils lead, with five of the top ten councils for EV adoption being there.

Strangely too, of the top ten councils for electric vehicle adoption, five are based in Scotland, putting fare more densely-populated areas of the south of England to shame.

In fact, the top three places are taken by Scottish councils, with Dundee coming in first place with 38 electric vehicles on its fleet, South Lanarkshire in second place with 24 electric vehicles and the City of Glasgow coming third with 22 electric vehicles. Fife comes in fifth place with 17 electric vehicles on its fleet, while North Lanarkshire comes in ninth place with 12 registered EVs.

England: embarrassingly few

The London borough of Islington is the only council in the Greater London Area to come in the top ten with 19 electric vehicles, placing it in fourth place overall. Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council — which has Nissan’s Sunderland production facility where European LEAF electric cars are made within its borders — comes in sixth place with 16 electric vehicles, while nearby Newcastle Upon Tyne comes in seventh place with 14 electric vehicles.

In eight place comes Oxford City Council, home to various electric car test projects with 14 vehicles, while tenth place is occupied by Lewes District Council — the only council south of London to come in the top ten.

Are some Nissan LEAFs struggling to charge in Public?

Some councils have charging provision, but little else.

Look through the data further, and you’ll soon notice entire swathes of the Uk where there’s not a single electric car on local council fleets. East Anglia is particularly hard hit, with not a single electric car registered in the massive counties of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk or Suffolk. Only Essex — which butts up to some of the Greater London boroughs — has a solitary electric car.

Some holes noted

Of course, it’s easy to look at the data provided and point accusing fingers at those councils who have responded with no electric cars listed in their care. But it’s worth noticing that some councils listed as having no electric cars do in fact still provide access to electric cars through various regional car share schemes.

One such scheme is in Bristol in the South West of England, where Transport Evolved happens to have its offices. While the council is listed in the survey as having no electric vehicles registered to the council, several local car share schemes do include electric cars, and council staff do have the option of using them when making work-related trips around town.

Which councils would you like to lead the way a little more?

Which councils would you like to lead the way a little more?

We’ve heard of similar projects in other councils too, as well as councils where tightening budgets have constrained the number of non-specialist cars on fleet and forced more staff to take either public transportation or use grey-fleet (privately-owned) cars instead.

Lead by example?

If you live in the UK and are interested in finding out about your local council’s fleet, you can do so by heading to the survey site. Alternatively, you can download the latest version of the survey as a Microsoft Office Spreadsheet here, so do check it out and let us know how your region fares in the league tables for electric vehicle adoption.

Politicians, including British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, aren't known for their love of plug-in cars.

Politicians, including British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, aren’t known for their love of plug-in cars.

If you’re outside of the UK, we’d also like to know about your local city council, your regional council or perhaps even your local state. How actively do they promote electric and alternative fuelled vehicles? How much are zero-emission alternatives like bicycles, walking or electrified public transport promoted to citizens? And would you like your local government to set more of example for others to follow?

Like politicians around the world, British politicians are well-known for their own hypocrisy and woeful misinformation when it comes to greener, cleaner transportation. But as a taxpayer, what measures would you like to see introduced to change that?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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  • Michael Gill

    Dundee have, in fact, so many EVs that they don’t have the spaces to park them!

  • Chris Gwynne

    Interesting that the European Green Capital, Bristol, have a total of 0 EV’s!