Improving community EV charging in Orkney’s Northern Isles

We’re pleased to announce that Community Energy Scotland (CES) has been jointly awarded project funding to support Orkney island community groups seeking to decarbonise their community transport and improve public electric vehicle (EV) charging.

The Scottish Government’s Rural Communities Ideas in Action Fund has enabled this CES partnership project with Transition North Ronaldsay and Sanday Enterprises. It aims to identify the opportunities for public, community-operated EV chargers on each island, and to share technical knowledge and experience of charger installation.

We aim to develop an inclusive solution that meets the individual needs of each community. The project outcomes will offer a route to propel community action on climate change and to enhance the transport services available to all those in each island community.

“This project is important for Sanday as we turn away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy.  Charging points will eventually be needed everywhere.  Both tourists and residents will benefit, thus helping to keep the economy moving forward.”

Victor Kerridge, Sanday Enterprises CIC

Together with Transition North Ronaldsay and Sanday Enterprises, we are keen to hear from the community on Sanday and North Ronaldsay on ways to develop and decarbonise their community transport, including the EV charging options. Transition North Ronaldsay and Sandy Enterprises will be launching community-led public surveys to gather this information from all of their community members.

Getting access to an EV is important but how can you?

It doesn’t matter how great low carbon transport technology is if only a minority can access it. That is true of electric vehicles (EVs) also. To reach net zero, we don’t all have to buy an EV to replace each one of our petrol/diesel cars and vans. In fact, I think we shouldn’t. There are alternatives to buying an EV. This would directly contribute to the urgent need to reduce the number of vehicles manufactured each year while phasing out fossil fueled vehicles. In any sustainable transport system multiple ways to access travel have to be taken into consideration.

Active travel like walking and cycling, and the infrastructure to make this safe, should be maximised where possible, and public transport improved. However, sometimes a car or van is needed.

I work for Community Energy Scotland and have been working on the ReFLEX Orkney project (part funded by UKRI) which is aiming to decarbonise the local system in Orkney by building a smart local energy system. Transport is just one element of the project and I want to share with you some of the solutions we’ve been looking at to increase people’s access to low carbon cars and vans: Community Transport, Car Clubs, and leasing of EVs.

Community Transport

Community Energy Scotland have supported island communities to own and operate EVs to aid residents get around areas where there is no alternative public transport. Rather than have a big EV minibus, multiple smaller EVs were preferred by three of the island communities we’ve worked with as it allows more flexibility to operate the services they provide. A smaller vehicle is better for accessing properties that have long & narrow or bumpy access roads. There’s more confidence that if one EV battery is low, it can be charged while the other is used. Both can be used for totally different trips at the same time and quite often a smaller vehicle would suffice for the journey.

Each island group has decided to operate two eNV200s. One a seven seater, and one a five seater with wheelchair access. The wheelchair access ramp folds away so doubles up as a very large boot for deliveries of goods when wheelchair access isn’t required. During the first lockdown this was very useful as it helped the communities to offer essential deliveries including food and medicines.

It’s also given the communities a chance to fill in transport gaps and supplement statutory or council services. For instance, some of the vehicles are being used to fulfil school bus contracts. All in all, this is a solution that is really flexible to meet the needs of the community.

Image credit: Community Energy Scotland
Image credit: ReFLEX/Colin Keldie

Car Clubs

The ReFLEX project contracted Co-wheels to run two electric car club locations alongside the three that were set up in Orkney just before the pandemic. Co-wheels car club is a pay-as-you-go electric car hire scheme. There is no upfront cost if joining as part of the ReFLEX project and is just £4.13 per hour to hire in Orkney. There aren’t reams of paperwork to fill out every time you want to book an EV and there is no key swapping as you access the car via your smart card, issued to you when you sign up.

Both locations are close to ferry terminals that connect the outer and inner Orkney islands so residents can be foot passengers and pick up the car club car on the other side. CoMoUK (The charity for the public benefit of shared cars, bikes, e‑scooters and rides) has gathered evidence across many locations in the UK of an increased uptake of active travel when there is access to a car club and that fewer vehicles are purchased.

Image credit: ReFLEX/Colin Keldie

Leasing

Leasing is another option if you need sole use of a vehicle rather than any of the options above. The ‘lifetime cost’ of an EV is less than that of a petrol/diesel and leasing greatly reduces one of the main barriers to realise this saving, the initial cost. The difference in the initial cost between an old petrol/diesel and a second-hand EV can be staggering and it may not be possible for some of us to afford that cost. Leasing still has an initial cost in the order of £1000 but this is significantly less than buying it outright. This would then be followed by monthly payments for the duration of the lease.

Conclusion

I challenge you to look at the low carbon transport options near you and try them out! Is it safe to walk or cycle? Is there a car club? Does your local community run a transport service? If the answers are ‘no’ but you want them to be ‘yes’, get in touch with your local council and community groups.

Eibhlin Lee, Trading Manager @CES. Original blog written for ‘This is Engineering Day’, IoM3 as the then CES ReFLEX Project Manager


At Community Energy Scotland we value our team’s and communities’ opinions. Blogs are a chance for us, our members and guests to share personal opinions and expertise, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Community Energy Scotland as an organisation. Please note opinions may change and Community Energy Scotland does not offer any endorsements.

ReFLEX Orkney – a new car club collection site at Kirkwall pier

Orkney’s northern outer isles communities now have access to a handy car club site near the ferry terminals at Kirkwall pier, so they no longer need to take their own vehicles on board when heading to Orkney Mainland.

This is the latest development by Community Energy Scotland as part of our role in the ReFLEX project that directly benefits more remote communities.

Co-wheels Orkney Car Club already manages three car hire sites around Orkney Mainland, and shortly, as well as the new site at the pier in Kirkwall, ReFLEX will shortly add another at Stromness, the West Mainland port town.

Leading on Orkney’s electric community transport

The outer isles communities of Hoy and Eday now have their own electric vehicles to provide low-carbon community transport services.

The vehicles replace those already being used by both communities in their on-demand transport services. Community Energy Scotland are proud to have been able to support the residents of Hoy and Eday in securing and delivering the new transport as part of the ReFLEX Orkney project. More information on the project is available on our website here and on the ReFLEX website.

Each community has received two Nissan eNV-200 electric vehicles: one seven seater capacity and the other is a five seater plus wheelchair access. The vehicles have been in use since last summer and been particularly valuable during the coronavirus outbreak.

The vehicles have been put to use alongside the existing community bus, which was running a scheduled service between Longhope and the ferry terminal at Lyness before the pandemic. Since the vehicles were delivered last March they have supported various community activities during lockdown. The vehicles have provided another transport option for those with particular health care needs or with limited mobility as part of the Development Trust’s dial-a-bus service. This has included the delivery of prescriptions and essential supplies to islanders including, but not limited to, those who have been shielding for the duration of the outbreak.

Deborah Jaques, Chair of The Island of Hoy Development Trust

A similar story exists in Eday, where the vehicles have been used by directors and volunteers from the Eday Partnership since June. Services have included food box deliveries, hot meals, parcels, shopping, prescriptions and even school work.

Eday Partnership reaches out to the whole of the island’s community, responding to the needs and interests of local residents. The vehicles allow us to continue playing an active role in supporting and strengthening the local community, while enabling improved mobility, responsiveness and flexibility in delivering these services. Since August, we have been using the vehicles to provide the school bus run, picking up the island’s children. More recently, as part of our wellbeing project, we have been using the vehicles for transporting our residents around the island and this is something that we are looking to make into a regular service.  Mobility is a big issue on Eday and now that we have a vehicle that is wheelchair accessible, this really has the potential to improve the lives of our residents.

Mellissa Thomson from The Eday Partnership

Mellisa also added: “At Eday Partnership, we are always looking to how we can best serve the community that we represent, and these vehicles go a great way to help us achieve the aims and objectives of our Development Trust.”

Community group collaboration with Community Energy Scotland as part the ReFLEX Orkney project demonstrates one of the ways that innovative, low-carbon technology can be made available to the public. Now that Hoy and Eday own their own electric vehicles, all local residents can now access low-carbon transport.

The communities were already taking initiative to improve transport and mobility in their communities by working with CES and being part of the ReFLEX project when the pandemic hit. It was really fortunate timing (and thanks to a lot of quick hard work!) to get the first vehicles in before the first lockdown and these last months have really shown what we can do for ourselves as communities with local action and ownership of solutions.

Mark Hull, CES Head of Innovation

Work is underway, led by CES via the ReFLEX project, on both islands to install electric vehicle charge points. Once these are up and running they will be managed by the Hoy Development Trust and the Eday Partnership.

Similar work is also taking place on Shapinsay, where CES is assisting the Shapinsay Development Trust to add to their existing community transport network with a 5 seater Nissan eNV-200 with wheelchair access and upgrade to a smart charger. The Trust operates an on-demand, donation based transport service for Shapinsay residents and community groups.

CES ReFLEX webpage

ReFLEX project website

We’re off! ReFLEX Orkney Ltd is launched

A new ground-breaking local energy company, ReFLEX Orkney Ltd, has launched a range of new low-carbon transport and power services exclusive to Orkney residents and businesses to further decarbonise the island’s energy system.

This is a major milestone for the £28.5 million ReFLEX Orkney project which is part funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and match funded by private investment.

Orkney already generates over 100% of its electricity demand annually from renewables. The project aims to help the community takes full advantage of its renewable energy potential, putting Orkney at the forefront of demonstrating how to reduce carbon, abate climate change, and protect wellbeing, livelihoods and the ecosystem; a top priority for governments, as well as wider society.

At the heart of the project is the demonstration of flexibility using technologies like batteries, electric vehicles, smart chargers and smart meters, which are being made available via affordable lease and other financing helping customers to avoid large upfront costs.

The project is also creating larger-scale and community-focused initiatives such as electric buses, a local electric car club and the integration of green hydrogen for storage and transport.

A key part of the ReFLEX service offering is the ReFLEX support team who will help guide and support energy customers to a decarbonised solution that best suits their needs. The aim is to be a one-stop-shop for all energy service needs.

The new services are available exclusively to Orkney residents who are members of ReFLEX. Membership is free to join, and members are supplied with up-to-date information about the latest service offers as well as topical information about new technologies, approaches and top tips for increasing energy efficiency and affordability.

The initial ReFLEX services include:

  • Electric vehicle leasing: to increase the use of electric vehicles, the ReFLEX leasing model offers a wide range of market leading EV’s with strong financial incentives for early adoption. The vehicles range from ZOEs to Teslas, minis to estate cars, with a variety of vans available too. The vehicles are supplied through the UKs leading EV leasing business, DriveElectric. The leases include benefits tailored to the needs of Orcadians such as use of a longer-range vehicle for trips off Orkney. A selection of vehicles are available for test drives in Orkney.
  • Electric vehicle chargers for off-street parking: The ReFLEX team will help support with grant applications to cover most of the cost of a new charger and installation, and support grid and planning permission applications. These home car chargers will enable faster charging and charge scheduling to help manage energy use.
  • New 100% renewable electricity tariffs: ReFLEX is committed to helping customers access the most appropriate electricity supply tariff for their needs. Supplied by Shell Energy Retail, the residents of Orkney have the choice of two tariffs at launch: the ReFLEX Orkney tariff, a flat, low rate tariff; and ReFLEX Orkney Charge and Drive which includes the equivalent of 2,000 free miles for your electric vehicle. Each tariff comes with smart meter installation – a great tool to help track energy consumption and reduce energy waste.
  • Fully electric pay-as-you-go car club: In addition to the individual car leasing options ReFLEX has teamed up with Co-wheels to introduce new EVs into the local car club. When signing up to Co-wheels, use the REFLEX1 code to access £25 of start-up credit and a 25% discount.

ReFLEX Orkney is currently developing additional services to launch in 2021, including battery storage for linking with micro-generation and a heating installation service to help lower bills and reduce carbon emissions. ReFLEX aims to continue to develop and broaden the range of offerings taking on board feedback from the community.

Further details about the ReFLEX membership and services* are available on ReFLEX’s newly launched website – www.reflexorkney.co.uk – and the customer services team are available via email or phone to discuss options. *ReFLEX membership and services are available to Orkney residents only.

A dedicated shop for ReFLEX Orkney is due to open on the Kirkwall high street in the new year where customers can speak to the customer services team directly, and a roadshow is being developed to take ReFLEX to various locations across the Orkney Islands.

“The launch of ReFLEX Orkney Ltd and the range of products and services is a major milestone for the ReFLEX Orkney project. We are pioneering an integrated, affordable, low-carbon energy system in Orkney which can then be used as a blueprint for other locations.

“A key aim for ReFLEX is to encourage early adoption of these technologies, as well as inspiring community participation in the drive to decarbonise Orkney. By becoming a member of ReFLEX, the community can help us shape it and demonstrate how communities can create smart local energy systems. In return we will help the community access affordable low carbon technologies and services, and better understand and manage their energy use.

“This is very timely as the UK government has just announced an end of the sale of diesel and petrol cars by 2030 as part of an ambitious plan for green industrial revolution, and yet again Orkney is ahead of the curve, ready to demonstrate to the nation.”

Gareth Davies, Managing Director of ReFLEX Orkney Ltd

“ReFLEX Orkney is a ground-breaking project in the Energy Revolution Challenge. The approach the ReFLEX team is taking combines abundant renewable energy resources with thorough engagement with local communities and organisations alongside the development of a joined-up, affordable, low-carbon energy system in Orkney.

“Clean energy delivered across smart and efficient local networks will play a major role in achieving the net zero goals of 2050. Today’s launch of a new range of low-carbon transport and power services to further decarbonise the Orkney energy system highlights the opportunities that are available to the UK through this kind of innovation.”

Rob Saunders, Challenge Director, Prospering from the Energy Revolution, UK Research and Innovation
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