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Tree-cutting team staff in the Highlands among those testing electric Nissan vans as part of Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks' (SSEN) company pilot


By Philip Murray

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Ken Locke in his electric van.
Ken Locke in his electric van.

ELECTRIC vans are being trialled by some power network engineering teams in the Inverness area – in the hope they could be rolled out more widely if a success.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has been trialling the Nissan ENV200 cans with staff in a range of roles and locales.

Among them is Ken Locke from the Inverness tree-cutting team.

“I got the van in February, about a month before lockdown”, he said: "The day it was delivered was also the first time I’d ever been inside an EV, far less driven one, so I was really excited to be taking part in this trial.”

The vehicles will be closely monitored to allow a better understanding of EV-specific factors including range anxiety for people whose job involves driving all day.

They will also explore the ease of home charging, the availability of rapid charge points, and overall performance in challenging and remote conditions.

SSEN said all of these categories make Mr Locke an ideal triallist, as his job takes him to some of the most remote areas the country has to offer.

The range from a full charge on the Nissan ENV200 is 160 miles, which seems a lot, but when you factor in that Mr Locke is part of the tree-cutting team that covers the some of the remotest parts of the Highlands and Islands, the firm said the 160 miles can be used up quicker than first thought.

Mr Locke said that working with his Nissan is very similar to a traditional vehicle, but it can be bizarre without the noise, adding: “The speed is similar to my previous van, but it does pick up quicker as there is no lag between pedal and engine, and a real plus is that the storage space is better in the Nissan.

“You also need to be mindful of what we’d traditionally call “MPG” but in the case of the EV is “MPC” (Miles per Charge), as factors such as loaded weight, outside temperature, internal devices such as heating/air con, Bluetooth connection, even wind direction can all have an effect on mileage.”

Ken Locke with his electric van.
Ken Locke with his electric van.

Although he’s been based at home and not working out of the Inverness depot during lockdown, the reaction from Mr Locke’s colleagues in the early days of the trial was a positive one. When out on the road as part of his tree-cutting role, he said there’s also been a few curious comments from customers.

“Although we’re in challenging times just now, and here at SSEN we have our own very strict safety and hygiene measures in place to help combat the coronavirus, I’ve still had a few socially-distanced chats with customers whose properties I’ve been working at over the past few months. Most comment that they didn’t hear me coming up the drive!

“Once I explain that the reason my van is so quiet because it’s fully electric, then the questions about range and speed begin, usually followed up with a “how do you plug it in?”

"Eventually they ask if they can see under the bonnet, which I’m able to do as long as I explain the social distancing guidelines and they view from afar.”

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