Bruce-the-Buggy Eigg Trial update

Bruce Electric Trial Buggy

Bruce Electric Trial Buggy

Now Bruce-the-Buggy has DVLA registration, Bob Murphy at Edinburgh College has been making great progress testing Bruce’s performance and charging characteristics on repeated test runs around Dalkeith.

So far the test runs (different gradients, bumpiness and speeds) are going well and we are hopeful that Bruce will be transported to the Isle of Eigg in early July where he will be tried out for a week at a time by 10 Eigg households.

The trial is being run as a partnership between the Eco Travel Network,  Edinburgh College and Eiggbox. It is funded by the Green Transport Prize which was awarded to the Eco Travel Network last year.

The trial will explore the feasibility and value of a lightweight electric vehicle on a remote island like Eigg where:-

  • – diesel has to be shipped in by ferry, and is expensive, bulky, and inconvenient.
  • – vehicles are difficult to maintain and use more fuel than they would otherwise
  • – journeys are short (less than 5 miles) though most people live ~4 miles from the ferry, community facilities and shop,
  • – the island generates its own electricity from hydro, wind and solar making electric vehicles very much cheaper to run and more convenient to fuel.
  • – hydro and wind electricity is generated at night, when demand is low, and an electric vehicle could be configured to make use of this surplus with smart charging technology.
  • – tracks to homes and businesses can be rough (too rough for a Twizy for example)
  • – goods and visitors arriving by ferry have to be transported to the other side of the island

There are currently 10 households signed up to take part in the Eigg trial using Bruce for a week each.  The trial will record and analyse:-

  • daily vehicle use by the households pre-trial plus their ‘normal’ diesel and electricity consumption.
  • how the buggy is used by the households – what it is and isn’t good for,

  • user thoughts about and reactions to using it,

  • how well its design and performance matches the different needs, usage patterns and terrain.

  • electricity consumption and (if possible) how well that is adapted to available capacity.

  • saving on diesel and other running costs compared with existing vehicles.

Bruce is a Gazelle road legal buggy adapted to electric propulsion. He has a 72V traction power system, currently provided by 6 x 12v 100Ah AGM traction batteries. These are sealed lead-acid batteries that are maintenance free and good for up to 600 cycles depending on average depth of discharge. Current testing suggests Bruce has a range of between 15 and 20 miles depending on terrain and driving speed. It looks like Bruce will charge at a rate of 1.3 Kw. Charging rate is important on Eigg as households have a limit of 5Kw.

We will be collecting pre-trial data on daily car trips from participants in due course but an earlier 10 day sample from a GPS tracker in 1 Eigg car showed an average daily mileage of 8 miles with a maximum of 17.  This means an overnight charge (when demand on the Eigg grid is low) should fulfil most needs although people may prefer to adopt top up charging whenever they arrive home if their 5 Kw limit allows.

We hope the Eigg trial will generate wider recognition of the role and value of low energy, lightweight electric vehicles in remote rural locations where public transport is scarce, fuel is expensive to buy and transport but ample electricity is generated from local, renewable sources.

The trial (if successful) could be repeated on other small islands or inaccessible settlements on the mainland.

Unfortunately, the trial will not tell us how such lightweight, electric vehicles might become an economically viable and supportable product for islands like Eigg. Vehicle options for the trial were thin on the ground once we had established that the Renault Twizy was not rugged enough for some island tracks and certainly lacks the necessary load carrying/trailing* capacity. Bruce-the-buggy is a one-off prototype which should be rugged enough to cope with both rough tracks and load carrying. But, in his current form, he still uses more energy than we would like, partly due to the weight of his lead acid batteries and also because the Gazelle wasn’t designed as an electric vehicle. Bob Murphy and his Edinburgh college colleagues have done stirling work getting the best out of the vehicle-as-designed. But the trial will show whether this is a venture worth pursuing and will hopefully stimulate further activity.

We will be publishing more details here once the trial has started and you can also follow progress on Twitter @ecofunkytravel or call Alison Kidd and Peter Williams on 01874 665401.

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About Alison Kidd

Research Psychologist
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