08 January 2019

S5M-15243 Ultra-low-emission Vehicles

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-15243, in the name of Michael Matheson, on ultra-low-emission vehicles.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I declare that I am honorary president of the Scottish Association for Public Transport and honorary vice-president of Railfuture UK.

I listened with interest to what George Adam said about taxis. Six years ago, I was across in Ireland to give evidence to the Irish Parliament’s rural affairs committee, and I travelled back to the airport in an electric vehicle: a Nissan Leaf. The driver told me that he could drive all round Dublin on a single charge. The technology has been with us for a while. That driver was an early adopter; Nissan had given him the taxi, to prove that it could do the job—so he was really enthusiastic, because he had got the car for nothing.

The Tory amendment mentions “standardisation of charging points”. That is a proper matter to consider, but I am very uncertain as to whether we are ready to set a standard. There is direct current charging, there is alternating current charging and there are nine different physical connections that can be made in different charging points. We have 150kW charging points coming in this year and 350kW charging points coming in in about a year or 18 months’ time. The standards are probably not stable enough to enable us to choose a winner.

However, there is a way forward. We can have a standard of physical connection—that would be helpful. We can have a standard on the logical messages that travel between the charging station and the vehicle that is being charged. We can build in a standard that future proofs charging stations, so that they can accommodate changes. It is time to do that.

It is worth considering that 100 years ago, when electricity was being put into domestic and industrial premises, there were no standards. Every electricity company had a different plug design. Some systems used DC and some used AC. Systems ran on different voltages and to different fusing standards—some had no fuses at all. We are in such an era now, and we need to move out of it.

Claudia Beamish talked about planning and domestic houses. My colleague Richard Lyle has been banging on about councils for some time, because councils could make it a planning condition that new developments must put in terminals. That would be a good idea.

I had not realised that Orkney has the greatest density of electric vehicles. I looked into the matter after seeing Liam McArthur’s amendment, and I found that there are seven charging points in Kirkwall. I was going to wind Mr McArthur up about that, but now I discover that there is a perfectly good reason for it.

I look forward to the Loganair Islander aircraft becoming electric in about three years’ time. The new Audi e-tron is 408 brake horsepower and the Islanders require 520 BHP, so that is well within the compass of what is available and working now. When electric engines are put in, the weight of the aircraft will be reduced, and it will be easier to fly—and, by the way, the top speed of the Islander is about the same as that of the new Audi, which has a range of more than 200 miles.

A lot is happening in public transport. In the central belt, we have new electric trains. Yesterday, I had a high-speed train for my journey down to the Parliament; I loved it. On the Inverness to Aberdeen line, there are classic HSTs that are not yet refurbished but are still super. There are the class 170s on the line down to Edinburgh—and a lot of journeys on that line are on HSTs—and there are the class 385s. The railways are super; they are not perfect everywhere, but my goodness, I would not go back to my journeys of 10 years ago, for anything.

We have been talking about ultra-low-emission vehicles, but no one has mentioned ferries, and we have the first electric ferries—[Interruption.] I beg members’ pardon; out of the corner of my eye I saw a hand go up. Well, no one has mentioned electric bicycles. Getting more people to use electricity-assisted bicycles would help people to get exercise.

Getting involved in transport is almost an instinctive thing. My first motorised transport was my piler—otherwise known as a bogey or a cairtie—which we used to put the motor mower in front of to tow us around the back garden. It is amazing that we did not kill anybody with the blades going.

This is an excellent debate. I look forward to my next vehicle being an electric one in about two years’ time. I hope that everybody else does the same.


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