Do electric vehicles work in rural areas? A company in the Brecon Beacons has been exploring this question for the last two years. The Eco Travel Network (ETN) has a fleet of 10 Renault Twizys, operated by local tourism businesses, enabling visitors to explore this beautiful area of Wales in a green and novel way. Businesses and residents also use the Twizys for much of their local travel. The good news is that Twizys use so little electricity, they can be powered by community and domestic solar and hydro installations.
But the Twizy was designed for urban rather than rural environments. It has little luggage capacity and struggles with the uneven surfaces of some rural lanes. Moreover, it looks decidedly urban for something you might encounter out on the hills and moors.
“Ideally we would like a more rural version of the Twizy”, says Alison Kidd a founding Director of the Eco Travel Network. “We don’t have many buses and few of us live on the bus routes there are. As a result, cars account for 40% of our carbon footprint, which is twice the national average“.
In 2013, the ETN won the Green Transport Prize in Edinburgh. It’s using the money to explore design possibilities for lightweight rural vehicles. It has modified a Twizy to give it more flexible suspension and added luggage racks. It is also partnering with Edinburgh College to test a rugged prototype electric buggy. After initial testing, the adapted Rural Twizy (‘Toro’) has arrived on the Isle of Eigg to see how it copes with a more challenging environment. The buggy (‘Bruce’) will join Toro later in the summer.
“I got in touch with Alison a few years ago”, says Lucy Conway, Director of Eigg Box who is heading the trial on the island, “I thought this kind of lightweight vehicle could work for us on Eigg. The island generates its own domestic electricity but we have to import diesel for our cars which is costly and not very green. Our main road is only 4 miles long so range and speed are not an issue for us but electricity consumption could be, since we need our vehicles to move people and supplies to and from the ferry, often several times a week“.
The ETN is interested in how many car trips the Twizy and buggy can replace on Eigg and how much electricity that takes. “It’s great to know that every mile driven in the Twizy on Eigg will be 100% green”, says Alison, “not many mainland electric car drivers can say that! But, if everyone on Eigg switched to electric transport, how much more electricity would the island need to generate? The carbon and ££ savings in diesel would certainly be significant.”
“If the trial is successful”, says Lucy, “we will all be wanting one and the challenge will be whether any manufacturer can build a low price, low energy, rural vehicle.”
On the other hand, judging by Toro, a rugged rural Twizy would look cool enough to sell in Chelsea!
The trial is a collaboration between the Eco Travel Network, Eigg Box and Edinburgh College and is funded by the 2013 Green Transport prize.
Contact: Alison Kidd firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. 01874 665401
www.ecofunkytravelling.wordpress.com Twitter @ecofunkytravel
Contact: Lucy Conway email@example.com Tel. 01687 482 414