Electric vehicles are not new. They’ve been with us since long before Ernie, the fastest milkman in the west, began doing his rounds in a battery-powered float.

What is new, however, is the sense of urgency now surrounding their use. With the Scottish Government having vowed to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2032, there is a dawning realisation that going electric is no longer a green-themed lifestyle choice; it’s a necessity.

Poor air quality is believed to contribute to more than 40,000 premature deaths in the UK annually, with emissions from cars and vans costing the NHS around £6 billion each year.

The answer to eliminating pollution is to invest in zero-emission transport. The big question is: are we prepared for a mass uptake of EVs?

One new study is positive, suggesting Scotland is accelerating in the transition to EVs faster than the rest of the UK.

The report by Imperial College London and E4Tech, commissioned by the Drax Group, shows Scotland powering ahead in terms of numbers of EV charging points being made available and the purchasing or leasing of vehicles.

Motorists registered 6565 alternative fuel vehicles in Scotland last year – that’s a 68% rise on the 3897 sold in 2016.

Meanwhile, there were 113,821 such cars sold in the rest of the UK, a rise of only 34% on the 84,994 in 2016.

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The uptake in purely electric cars raced ahead, with a 48% rise to 903 registrations in Scotland compared with a 31% rise to 12,694 in the rest of the UK.

The Drax report also highlights the fact Scotland has seen a successful shift from dependence on fossil fuels to harnessing renewable energy, meaning the creation of a full circle of zero-emission power.

There is support, too, for EV buyers in the form of the Scottish Government’s intention to expand interest-free loans for EVs and hybrids.

Transport Scotland, meanwhile, is inviting notfor- profit housing associations and co-operatives to apply for a share of £700,000 to secure the services of EV car clubs.

Matthew Eastwood, Head of Transport at Energy Saving Trust, commented: “Plugged-in Households enables access to electric vehicles irrespective of income or location.

“Not-for-profit housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland can apply for grant funding to procure the services of a zero-emission car club for use by their tenants, their own use and that of the wider local community.”

The latest generation of EVs, themselves, are becoming more affordable – and more attractive – as manufacturers battle to win over customers.

We’ve come a long way from actor Leonardo DiCaprio extolling the virtues of the Toyota Prius.

Today’s EVs are much sexier: from the Tesla Model X to the BMW i8 to the Jaguar I-Pace, which won Car of the Year and Best Alternative Fuel Car at the 2018 Scottish Car of the Year awards.

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The electric SUV has been championed by Scottish tennis star Andy Murray, who says: “Jaguar is a great British brand and has changed a lot since I was young. It’s making modern, younger cars, like the electric cars – one of the first big companies to do it – and the I-Pace is great to drive.

“Wrongly, I assumed you wouldn’t be able to go very far with it but you can go 270 miles, which is obviously a long trip, so it’s great.

“I charged up once in a service station and that was fine. Obviously it’s a little bit longer than filling up in a petrol station, but the reason for me having to do that was that I hadn’t planned in advance. Now I charge the car pretty much every night when I’m at home.”

Volkswagen, whose emissions tampering scandal was a catalyst for the debate that’s seen diesel cars vilified, is upping production while reducing the price of its EVs. Its new strategy could see 50 million models produced, with £43.5 billion investment set aside for battery procurement.

The German marque is aiming to produce 200,000 examples of a brand new EV, known as the MEB Entry. A direct rival to the Tesla Model 3, it’s expected to retail for around £18,000. It is also building 100,000 of its mid-sized ID Aero in a plant currently making the fossil-fuelled Passat.

While such models are expected to be more efficient – helping reduce range anxiety for motorists – they do rely on a charging infrastructure that must be fit for purpose while seeing a huge upsurge in demand.

Figures released by the RAC Foundation show Scotland’s chargers were used 37,433 times during August, 2017, compared with 26,119 times in the same month in 2016 –an increase of 43%.

Research carried out by HSBC Commercial Banking found there are 743 publicly funded charge points for electric vehicles in Scotland, meaning there are 7127 people for every charger. Although this means Scotland has an above-average number of public charge points per person, it’s evident more can be done.

Scott McClurg, head of energy and sustainability for HSBC Corporate Banking, says: “If Scotland is to shift to electric vehicles in the long term, the overall volume of charge points has to improve across the board.

“While there are clear opportunities to meet rising demand through the private sector, local authorities and central government are also looking closely at this space to ensure the right infrastructure is in place.”

Scottish Power Energy Networks is also calling for more investment. It’s already supported a range of decentralised energy measures through a Green Economy Fund.

Established by the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) to support the Scottish Government’s ambitious climate change targets, £6 million has been awarded to more than a dozen initiatives.

These include the development of a mobile app, WattsUp, an EV route planner designed to guide drivers to their nearest charging bay.

The Fund is also supporting the collection of information from network operators to offer motorists real-time data on available chargers.

The Herald’s newest partner in our Climate For Change campaign, Newton Property, has a range of clean and green ambitions that include fitting its nationwide property portfolio with chargers. Of course, innovation in charging capabilities ultimately will be key to making EVs a success. Shell is making great strides in new technology with the planned installation of its first ultrafast charging points in Europe.

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Derek MacDonald, Joint Managing Director of Newton Property Management 

It claims they can add 150km of range to a car’s battery in just five minutes or fully recharge in 10 minutes – that’s three times faster than today’s best chargers.

The downside is they’re so powerful no car can use them yet. The Porsche Taycan is expected to be one of the first when it goes on sale next year. In the public transport sector, meanwhile, we’re seeing a stronger focus on moving from oil burners to electric buses.

Perth-based Stagecoach, who have invested more than £1 billion in greener buses over the past ten years, have unveiled a £56 million proposal to deliver 105 zero-emissions double-deckers – and the necessary charging infrastructure – for Greater Manchester by summer next year.

The Enviro400 EV City buses, which have a range of 190-plus miles and can carry 80 passengers, would be built by Scottish company Alexander Dennis.

From eco-friendly buses to investment in public and private power points, in the journey to zero-emission transport one thing is clear: despite all of the practical challenges, Scotland really is determined to lead the charge into an EV future.

How Far Will Yours Go?

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Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh

NEDC range: 339 miles*

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Nissan Leaf 40kWh

NEDC range: 235 miles