In September, we are taking Thierry (one of our ETN fleet of Twizys) on a research trip to 2 Scottish islands: Eigg and Mull. As far as we know, this will be the first visit by a Twizy to these islands and it sounds like a first for Caledonian MacBrayne in carrying a Twizy on board its ferries! It is just unfortunate that our only realistic way of transporting Thierry to Scotland is rather ignominiously (and certainly not very greenly) in the back of a Ford Transit van. Once at Oban and Mallaig, we will dump the van and twizy over to the islands. Our dream though is of a day when small vehicles like Twizys could be loaded on the back of an overnight train to Scotland. Perfect.
Isle of Eigg
We will be on Eigg 10th-12th September hosted by Lucy Conway and the Eigg community and staying at Kildonan House. At the moment, Eigg is the most likely candidate for the Bruce buggy trial next spring/summer. We feel (but maybe wrongly) that the Twizy (as currently designed) may not be quite rugged enough (suspension and luggage carrying wise) to work on Eigg.
During our September visit, islanders will get a chance to see and try driving the Twizy and give us their thoughts and feedback on requirements for a Twizy/buggy like vehicle which would work on the island. Eigg has about 5 miles of road and many of the community live at Cleadale about 4 miles from the ferry landing and shop. Diesel has to be shipped in 50L barrels and collected from the ferry. We are keen to learn all we can about the challenges of local transport on the island during our visit including seeing how many Wh it takes for Thierry to mount the two steep hills between the harbour and Cleadale.
The most notable aspect of trialling electric vehicles on Eigg is that the island is off-grid and used to rely on household diesel generators. In the past 10 years, the community (who own the island) has developed their own grid system which integrates multiple renewable energy sources (hydro, wind and solar combined) and makes this available to all houses and businesses on the island via a high voltage distribution grid. The system contributes 85% of the island’s electricity demands with a back up diesel generator used only when the input is too low for some reason. This puts Eigg, small though it is, ahead of the curve in terms of a locally independent renewable power system which integrates and stores energy from different sources. It is impressive and thought provoking.
It also means that an island like Eigg could (in principle) be self-sufficient in powering all its personal transport from its own renewable sources which would be truly inspiring – especially if it relieved them of the expense and hassle of having diesel shipped out in barrels by ferry to fill their cars.
Having said that, Eigg’s grid really focuses one’s attention on the exact amount of power any electric vehicle requires and what would happen on the island if there started to be numerous such vehicles all requiring power to move around. This is why we are so interested. The Eco Travel Network is committed to ultra low energy vehicles for local rural journeys for a good reason! Lightweight vehicles like Twizys and buggies consume a fraction of the Wh/mile of “mainstream” electric cars as the latter have to match the range, speed and comfort of their diesel/petrol counterparts. Ultra low energy vehicles focus on what is minimally necessary to transport people on their everyday local journeys at acceptable speeds, in acceptable comfort but using as little electricity as is possible to do so. This approach is vital on Eigg, where range is not an issue but power certainly is. And, ironically, the same is actually true on mainland UK if we wish the number of electric vehicles to grow and for them all to be powered renewably. It’s just harder to recognise this issue where there’s always an apparently limitless grid supply to fall back on.
So, a trial on Eigg of low energy vehicles could teach us all sorts of lessons about renewable energy and transport- not just for a small isle but also for the larger island of Britain.
Isle of Mull
After Eigg, we (and the Twizy) will be visiting Mull on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th September. Here we will be hosted by the Mull and Iona Community Trust in their HQ at Craignure. They are holding an electric vehicle introductory event on Friday 13th (9:30am start) where we will be talking about the Eco Travel Network and demonstrating the Twizy along with other electric vehicle contributers.
For people attending the event, who have their UK driving licence with them, there will be an opportunity to drive the Twizy and see what it’s like.
Mull is interesting because, while it is one of the larger islands, the main distances between settlements are under 50 miles and therefore readily Twizy-able. Mull also has a huge volume of tourists and tourist vehicles. It is possible that the model the Eco Travel Network has pioneered in the Brecon Beacons National Park might work on Mull – i.e. introducing Twizy rental to visitors as a way of encouraging and helping subsidise the introduction of lightweight electric vehicles which then get used and adopted by local residents and small businesses. The tourist businesses also provide a simple and economically beneficial way of creating an informal Twizy charging network where pubs, cafes and visitor attractions are happy to offer a top up charge to visiting Twizllers who only require a 13amp socket and will enjoy a drink or meal or activity during the time required. This way there is no need for any formal charging infrastructure or major grants – the scheme can start small and grow organically.
For more information and details of the electric vehicle event on 13th September, please contact Moray Finch on 01680 812905 or firstname.lastname@example.org Moray is General Manager of the Mull and Iona Community Trust.
We will write up our Twizy trip experiences on Eigg and Mull on this blog on our return. Watch this space!