Today’s Eco Travel Network has its origins in our earlier electric buggy project. In 2010, we won a Green Dragons Den Prize at the Hay Festival. This enabled us to fund Dragon Electric Motors to convert two road legal buggies (‘b-bugs’) to electric. We named them Boris and Blodwen.
Below is a summary of the 2011 b-bug trial results:-
30 people took part in the trial – using a b-bug for 3-5 days. A further 50 tried a b-bug for a short joy ride.
The b-bugs totalled 1500 miles and climbed 150,000 feet. They averaged 145 Wh/mile and consumed 290 kWh of electricity. The longest recorded trip was 33 miles and the maximum recorded speed 48mph with an average trip length of 9 miles and an average speed of 16 mph. Most of the driving was on small country lanes (where driving is necessarily slow) and 25% trips involved climbs of over 1000 feet.
The b-bugs inspired visitors to leave their cars behind and travel around the Brecon Beacons in a different and more enjoyable way. They did this because it was fun, they loved the open air and every journey felt like “an adventure”. It also changed how they holidayed. They explored local lanes, visited local attractions, ate at local pubs and enjoyed local activities. using their cars much less (or even not at all) during their stay. This was in direct contrast to our previous findings where visitors travelled an average of 50 miles by car a day often leaving the National Park completely.
Local residents found the b-bugs’ speed and range fine for commuting to work, making quick trips into town for shopping and ferrying their children to school or other activities. They would happily swap using the car for using a b-bug for these short daily journeys because it’s more enjoyable, cheap and handy.
The b-bugs appealed because they were funky and fun rather than because they were green. Their greenness was seen as a nice ‘by-the-way’ although the 1500 trial miles actually consumed less than 20% of the electricity produced by one set of domestic PV panels in the same period.
The trial showed there is real potential for an ultra lightweight, short range, electric vehicle which is not trying to be a car but can replace short rural journeys in hilly rural terrain where public transport is often not an option and cycling is challenging. But to work, it has to be both enjoyable and cheap.
If visitors could hire such vehicles, this would change their travel patterns in ways that are good for the environment of the National Park and good for the local economy. They would also give the Brecon Beacons a promotional edge as an eco-tourism destination.
Finally, the trial demonstrated that an informal charging point network, based on local tourist businesses, is fine for supporting lightweight electric vehicles, can readily evolve and brings additional business to the participants.
You can read the following research reports about the b-bug project:
Here is a photographic record of some of Boris and Blodwen’s b-bug adventures. Click on any image to view as a slideshow.