ELECTRIC cars bought by a Scots council to show off their green credentials have proved an expensive flop, official figures have revealed.
At least £70,000 of taxpayers’ cash was lavished on three green vehicles by Edinburgh Council last summer.
But one of the expensive new electric cars has only done 1,500 miles in the first six months compared with the council average of 3,600.
It is understood the vehicles have proved unpopular because they offer too little storage space for professional use and some drivers are embarrassed to be seen in them.
The failure of the scheme is a blow for the council which boasted in August last year that the cars would “encourage sustainable forms of transport”.
Edinburgh Council spent £30,000 on the cars with £40,000 coming from Transport Scotland.
Officials bought two £26,000 Nissan Leafs and a £24,000 Mitsubishi Miev.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that one of the Nissan Leafs, used by surveyors to visit building sites, had only done 1,524 miles since August.
Another Leaf, used by Trading Standards for “sampling work”, had only clocked up 1,850 miles over the same period.
The most used of three electric cars was the Mitsubishi, used by “Scientific Services inspections”, which hit just 2,937 miles.
Launching the cars last year, the council’s environment leader Robert Aldridge, said: “These cars are a great addition to our fleet as we want to encourage more sustainable forms of transport both in the work place and in the wider community.
“Electric vehicles are cheaper to run and better value. This project will be a key part of our plans to improve the Council’s environmental performance.”
But a spokesman for Taxpayer Scotland said: “You have to ask if these cars are another example of political posturing to obtain green credibility at taxpayer expense.
“A city like Edinburgh with steep hills is not best suited to these cars.
“It would be interesting to know if council officials have decided that they are not worth using, or even impractical and unreliable. Maybe that would help save taxpayers from more spending on wasteful ideas.”
Even Edinburgh’s Green councillors attacked the project. A spokesman said: “The investment in green technology is only any good if people have the will to use it and so far it looks like the will is lacking.
“If we have electric cars and they’re not being used it’s an issue. If it’s an attitude problem or a reluctance then it shows winning hearts and minds is as important as buying new technology.”
The Labour group leader, Andrew Burns, said they had been supportive of the project but added: “It’s extremely disappointing to hear they’re only being used half as much as the regular fleet. It clearly indicates there’s not been enough thought put into the pilot.”
A council spokeswoman said: “The electric cars have been allocated across Council departments to pilot and evaluate.
“Protecting and improving the environment is extremely important to us so when our evaluation is complete we aim to have electric cars out on the road as much if not more than our other vehicles in the coming year.”
According to the council, the Nissan Leaf which only travelled 1500 miles was used by surveyors driving to building sites for inspections and for taking staff to meetings throughout the city.
The other Leaf was used by Scientific Services for “inspections and sampling”.
The Environment Health and Trading Standards department used the Miev for what they described as enforcement and sampling work.
The limited range of the vehicles is also likely to be an issue for anyone planning a busy day’s motoring.
The five-seater Leaf can go for just 109 miles before needing a full recharge, which takes about seven hours.
The Miev, which has just four seats, can only manage 93 miles. Most small cars can manage 300 – 400 miles of city driving on one tank.
As a result of the floor-mounted batteries, storage space in the cars is limited.
The Miev’s storage is just 227 litres compared with almost 400 for a VW Golf.