Preliminary research trip – Isle of Lismore

One of the ways we plan to use the Green Transport prize money is to explore the potential application of lightweight electric vehicles (like the Twizy) on Scottish islands where vehicle range is not an issue, fuel is very expensive whilst, at the same time, some islands generate significant renewable electricity (hydro, wind, solar and tidal) relative to their consumption.

Whilst sailing on the West Coast a few weeks ago, we took the opportunity to visit the Isle of Lismore just to do a bit of preliminary research.

Researching transport on Lismore (by bike)

Researching transport on Lismore (by bike)

We called up and booked a couple of hire bikes in advance and when we arrived by ferry, we found 3 bikes ready for us in the ferry waiting room. We selected the best 2 and headed off uphill from the harbour to find the shop/PO. After a few minutes, we were accosted by a friendly local who had hotly pursued us in his car because, as he politely pointed out, we had stolen his bike! (We had wondered why there were 3 in the waiting room!).
Anyway, he happily suggested that we keep it for the afternoon and return it to the ferry waiting room when we were leaving the island which we duly did.

Having cleared ourselves of bike rustling in the eyes of the locals, we then had a prolonged and enthusiastic conversation with Bob in the shop about electric vehielces, wind turbines and island transport issues. It transpired that he is on the energy group which is part of Lismore’s community trust.

We learned the following which is a helpful start to our research:-

– Lismore has 14 miles of road (most of which forms a backbone along the length of this relatively low lying island).

– Most Lismore households own 2 cars – one they keep on the mainland (for long journeys) and one they keep as a runabout on the island.

– We talked to one local who lives 5 miles from her place of work (the school) so travels at least 10 miles by road a day.

– Fuel is a real headache as there is none on the island and islanders aren’t allowed to carry it on Cal Mac ferries other than in their own car fuel tanks. This means that filling up for them involves a 50 minute ferry trip to Oban with their car which costs £60 return on top of the fuel itself. It also means they have to stay in Oban for 3 hours before the next ferry back.

– The island community run a “granny bus” driven by volunteers which is open to those aged over 75 years and meets the ferry several times a week.

– The Energy group is exploring the possibility of a wind turbine. Lismore is on the National Grid.

– Having cycled the length of the island, we observed that their “main” tarmac road is in better shape than our own local ones!

Cal Mac Ferry approaching Lismore

Cal Mac Ferry approaching Lismore

Given the level of interest, we floated the possibility of visiting in September with a Twizy for them to see and drive. The Twizy might not be the ideal vehicle for island life but it is currently the only vehicle of its kind available and we know it works really well for short journeys in rural Wales. It will at least provide a useful way for us to gather input on the kind of lightweight electric vehicle which might work for islands. Such input would be used to inform the lightweight rural vehicle design projects which we also have planned as part of the same project.

We certainly are looking forward to revisiting Lismore.

If you would like to learn more about the Scotland ETN research project, please contact alison@prospectory dot co dot uk

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