THE Scottish Government may be accused of many things but a lack of commitment to tackling climate change surely can’t be one, can it?

As well as having some of the world’s most ambitious zero emissions targets, it has also introduced low emissions zones (LEZs) in the country’s four biggest cities, permitting local authorities to fine drivers of the highest polluting vehicles from entering city centres.

As a supporter of all these measures, I feel somewhat conflicted that I’m about to hand back an electric car I leased 14 months ago, and trade it in for a more polluting, diesel-guzzling alternative.

Not because I want to – I love the car – but because I feel I have no choice.

The experience of owning an electric car has shown me that, when you scratch the surface of the government’s lofty rhetoric, there’s a shocking and cynical lack of organisation and co-ordination.

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For the Scottish Government to have the slightest hope of meeting its emissions targets, it must work in partnership with the UK government and private industry and with the co-operation and goodwill of consumers.

One of the first, and potentially highest, hurdles for government and the auto industry is incentivising the vast majority of drivers to switch to electric vehicles over the next decade or so.

Holyrood waved through the introduction of LEZs against a backdrop of Westminster’s proposed ban on the sale of new models of petrol and diesel cars from 2030. So far, so virtuous.

However, my experience of driving an electric car has persuaded me that we’re still a million miles away from making them available, affordable, and driveable for the average motorist.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not an average motorist but, as a relatively affluent, middle-class, environmentally aware professional, I’m just the sort of person the Scottish Government needs to have on-board to help with the disruptive, and costly, switch to green energy.

Not one of life’s natural early adopters, I nevertheless took the decision, a year last January, to get rid of my diesel automatic and replace it with a new silver Mercedes 250 EQA. At a cost of £500-a-month, it’s a significant investment, but it’s a beautiful car that drives like a dream and is equipped with all the trinkets and gizmos to tickle the ego of even the most facile, first world petrolhead.

The Herald: A rare sight - an available charging pointA rare sight - an available charging point (Image: free)

The first setback came when I realised that, as a tenement dweller, there is no provision for me to install a home charger. Even with the co-operation of neighbours and the estimated £4,000 installation fee, the private, rear lane can’t be used because it has to be kept clear for emergency service access.

Still, no big deal, I thought, there are plenty of public charge-points, so I accepted I’d have to fork out a little extra. A small price to pay for my contribution to saving the planet. More of that later.

The second setback came when I decided to use the car for a long journey. It was a drive I’d routinely made, from Glasgow to Derby, in my diesel car and it took no more than five to six hours, with a short break. In my shiny new electric Merc, the 285-mile journey there took 10 hours and 12 hours on the return leg.

The battery is meant to have a maximum range of around 250 miles, but this is rarely the case. In cold weather it can be as little as 170 miles.

According to the manufacturer and lease company, it should be possible to recharge the car completely at one of the superfast charge-points you find at most motorway service stations.

So, theoretically, the drive to Derby should have involved a single, hour-long recharge stop. But again, it’s not that simple.

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The charge-point may tell you that your car is 100% charged, but the car doesn’t always agree. In fact, the first 100% charge can be as little as 130 miles and even less with subsequent charges.

So, the moment the battery starts to drain, you’re already fretting about where and when your next charge stop will be. There’s even a term for it – it’s called ‘range anxiety’.

In many cases, finding another charge-point forces you to divert from your route, often taking you miles off the motorway. So at least you get to see obscure rural piles and hamlets you’d never normally visit.

After a second such painful journey, to convince myself the first wasn’t an aberration, I reluctantly accepted that the car isn’t equipped for long journeys. But I could still use it to drive around the city. Now back to the issue of charging.

In my area, there are two local charging locations, with a total of six charge-points. At any time, at least two of them will be inoperable, but often four and sometimes all six will be out of action. All are managed by Chargeplace Scotland, a publicly-owned subsidiary of Transport Scotland, who never seem to have an explanation for why their chargers have such a high rate of operational attrition.

The Herald: Carlos Alba is handing back his electric MercedesCarlos Alba is handing back his electric Mercedes (Image: free)

The spaces for those that are operable are, more often than not, occupied by non-electric cars. All the streets around where I live are metred, but the parking attendants visit so infrequently that drivers of non-electric cars feel they can park in the charge-point spaces with impunity.

Rather than wait the necessary month of Sundays to find a free space locally, I took to travelling the mile or so to a car park, where there is a further six charge-points.

The spaces there are just as hard to access, for the same reasons, but they did provide an alternative. I’d used these spaces five or six times over a couple of months without any issue when, out of the blue, I received a £60 parking ticket for failing to pay the car park charge.

I pay Glasgow City Council for an annual parking permit but, because this car park is fractionally beyond the local boundary of my address, it doesn’t apply.

It seemed to me to be beyond satire that a council that’s recently introduced a LEZ should fine a motorist, who has a parking permit, for charging his electric car but, when I checked online, I discovered that’s just what they claim the right to do.

To meet the parking charge for the 12 hours needed to fully charge my car, is an additional £15 on top of the £35 cost of paying for the electricity. My old diesel car cost around £90 to fill, for a range of around 550 miles. At today’s prices, it would probably be closer to £100.

The cost of travelling the same distance in my electric car, with parking charges factored in, is at least £150. But the cost issue is moot.

The reality is that, for much of the time, there’s nowhere available locally to charge the car, and so my £500-a-month relic sits on the street, idle, while I’m forced to take public transport to attend work meetings.

I wrote to my local Green Party councillor, explaining the problem, and some weeks later I received an email from an official whom the councillor had passed my email onto.

He provided me with a screed of copperplate, explaining that “the Council is committed to attaining net-zero carbon by 2030 and actions in support of transitioning away from the use of fossil fuels is included in Glasgow’s Climate Plan” and other such bumptious platitudes.

He also set out a list of actions the council claims to be undertaking to facilitate use of electric vehicles, pending passage of a series of lengthy public consultations. None of which is remotely helpful to me.

So, reluctantly and against all my instincts, I’m trading-in my electric Merc for a diesel alternative – even a plug-in hybrid is out of the question for the same reasons – which makes me feel like Jeremy Clarkson. And there are very many more people I’d rather feel like than Jeremy Clarkson.

I do hope that, sooner rather than later, manufacturers, government and local authorities will get their act together sufficiently to make it easier for people like me to drive electric cars. In the meantime, I’ll see you at the diesel pumps.