Pictured: Councillor John Tanner, Councillor David Nimmo Smith and winner Morgane de Salvage

City gears up for electric car initiatives with treasure hunt

An Oxford resident walked away from Oxford Castle £750 better off this Tuesday thanks to a competition organised by the Go Ultra Low campaign, designed to raise awareness of the benefits of switching to an electric vehicle. Morgane de Salvage, 29, tracked down the money – the amount drivers typically save on fuel every year by switching – to Oxford Castle after following a series of clues posted on Facebook.

She said: “I’m amazed to have won the money! £750 is a huge saving to make – I didn’t realise electric cars could have such a big impact. I just saw the competition on Facebook and thought I’d come down and give it a shot.”

Speaking to the Oxford Student, Councillor John Tanner, Board Member for a Clean and Green Oxford, detailed the importance of the initiative for the city, saying: “There is strong support in Oxford for a low-carbon future so Go-Ultra is an opportunity we don’t want to miss. We all need to move away from non-renewable fuels to environmentally friendly transport as quickly as possible.”

The competition followed the announcement of an £800,000 grant from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles as part of its Go Ultra Low campaign, a joint venture between local government and vehicle manufacturers.

Cllr Tanner explained plans for the funding: “The Government funding Oxford City Council has will be used to find practical solutions for how residents in terraced housing and flats can charge their electric cars. We will look at charging points on the street, running wires across the pavement and car-park electric charging, to see which works best.”

In total, at least 6 types of charger are set to be trialled across 30 locations in the city, ranging from low-tech ‘cable-gullies’ laid into the pavement, to high-tech smart lampposts which can communicate with the vehicle and the rest of the charging network. Ultimately, the plan is to install 100 charging points across the city.

The city council is attempting to take the lead as far as the vehicles themselves are concerned, as Jennifer Carr, Sustainability Partnerships and Engagement Officer, described: “In terms of the city council’s experiences with electric cars, we have a number of these in our fleet, including Nissan LEAFs and Citroen C0s. We also have hybrid electric vans, one hybrid car and six electric bikes too!”

As for personal use, Cllr Tanner said: “I still have an old fashioned petrol car but I’d go electric next time. Meanwhile I walk, cycle and use hybrid-buses for most trips in Oxford, and usually take the train for longer journeys.”

Currently, only 1% of new cars sold are electric. According to a 2016 report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, however, electric cars will be cheaper to own than petrol cars by 2022, thanks largely to falling costs in Lithium-ion batteries. Combined with improvements to charging infrastructure, this may help to persuade the 56% of people who, according to the Public Attitudes to Electric Vehicles Survey 2015, said they hadn’t considered buying an electric car.

In the meantime, Go Ultra Low hopes that free parking in many locations, government grants of up to £4,500 and exemption from Vehicle Excise Duty will persuade motorists to make the switch.