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Highland Council agrees to double the cost of EV charging

By Nicola Sinclair, Local Democracy Reporter

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The cost of charging electric vehicles in the Highlands is going up.
The cost of charging electric vehicles in the Highlands is going up.

Highland Council voted to increase the price of its fastest EV chargers from 30p per kilowatt hour (kwh) to 70p. Slower ‘destination’ chargers will cost 35p/kwh.

The council says it needs to up the price to cover the cost of maintaining and improving the network.

But the issue proved divisive, with a crunch vote tied eight votes apiece. Economy committee chairman Ken Gowans cast the deciding vote to increase prices.

And the issue was further complicated by a row over who should make the decision – the economy committee or the council’s new climate change committee.

Two of the most outspoken councillors in the debate are EV drivers themselves – but they took vastly different views on the price hike.

Councillor Sarah Fanet told the chamber she arrived late to the climate change committee in November because the EV charger en route wasn’t working.

She said there aren’t enough chargers, and many of them are faulty. “It’s not good enough at the moment in the Highlands,” she said.

Cllr Fanet says a price increase is necessary to fund improvements to the network.

In the report for the economy committee, Highland Council explains that Transport Scotland no longer subsidises the repair and maintenance of the EV network.

As such, it needs to charge more to cover its costs. The council also claims its electricity bill has increased by 160 per cent.

Without a significant price hike, the EV network will continue to deteriorate.

However, Councillor Patrick Logue took a very different view. He said the new tariff makes it the most expensive local authority area in Scotland for electric vehicles.

Cllr Logue also took issue with figures in the economy committee report. These calculated that electric vehicles would still be cheaper than petrol/diesel after the tariff increase.

The council’s sums state that slower ‘destination’ chargers would cost motorists 8.96p per mile, while faster ‘journey’ chargers come in at 17.91p. Home charging is cheapest of all.

By contrast, unleaded petrol and diesel would cost 18.59p and 19.01p per mile respectively.

But Cllr Logue claimed the council’s figures are presented the wrong way around, and petrol prices have dropped since the council did its sums in November.

At the time of writing, RAC has the average cost of a litre of unleaded at 148.98p and diesel at 170.38p.

Exact mileage prices depend on the make of the car, but this would make Highland fast chargers more expensive than unleaded petrol.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Logue said: “We risk repeating the mistakes of the past and making the Highlands the most expensive place in Scotland to travel by electric car.”

The figures may be tough, but the biggest row actually centred on who should be making the call.

Back in November, the council’s new climate change committee was asked to approve an even bigger price rise, to 84p. However, councillors wanted more information on maintenance costs and deferred a decision.

Highland Council officers then went back to Transport Scotland and managed to unlock some more cash. This meant they could ask councillors to increase prices to a more palatable 70p.

But that decision rested with the economy committee. The Greens and Tories felt it should have been a decision for the new climate change committee.

Cllr Logue brought an amendment asking members to “honour the democratic decision of the climate change committee” and give them the final say.

His amendment divided the chamber, resulting in an eight-eight tied vote. The chairman made it 9-8 in favour of raising the tariff.

Climate committee chairman Karl Rosie voted against Cllr Logue’s amendment.

Cllr Rosie said: “The recommendations in today’s report are clear and these were democratically agreed by members. The new tariff will help the council meet the cost of maintaining its EV network, taking us a step closer to meeting our climate aspirations.”

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