A Conservative MSP was accused of ‘inappropriate’ conduct at an Edinburgh Council meeting after she disagreed with an officer about the capability of the city’s electric vehicle chargers.

Sue Webber, who represents the Lothian region at Holyrood and is also (for the next four weeks or so) a councillor for Pentland Hills, disputed claims that new 50-kilowatt (kW) ‘rapid’ car chargers being rolled out across the city can charge to 80 per cent in half an hour.

She said it takes her own electric vehicle (EV) more than three times that, and asked when the 100kW-plus “real rapid chargers” would be introduced in Edinburgh, claiming that the 50kW devices are now deemed “slow.”

The council’s parking operations manager Gavin Brown replied: “I’ll ensure you that the rapid chargers are still very rapid and will get you an 80 per cent charge within 30 minutes as far as we’re concerned.”

Following Mr Brown’s response, Councillor Webber could be seen shaking her head.

Transport Convener Cllr Lesley Macinnes interjected: “You’re shaking your head in disagreement to technical information that’s been given by an officer. If you have any other evidence that indicates that you’ve got more information, perhaps you could circulate it to the rest of the committee.”

She added: “It’s inappropriate to publicly demonstrate a disagreement with an officer on a technical matter.”

But Ms Webber assured she was drawing on her own experience as an electric car owner.

She said: “I have a (Voltswagen) ID3 with a range of 220 miles and to get the battery charged to 80 per cent on a rapid charger it takes one hour 40 minutes.

“So that’s where my evidence comes in first hand. Because obviously the batteries are getting bigger, so as the batteries are getting bigger, the charge to 80 per cent takes longer. So that’s why I was shaking my head at that.”

Mr Brown said: “Thank you very much for that additional information regarding your own vehicle and you are right that technology is advancing extremely quickly and I would hope that we’re not getting outstripped by that.”

He added that the introduction of ultra-rapid chargers across Edinburgh was currently being explored by officers.

The exchange came amid an update on the council’s roll out of 81 new on-street chargers serving 141 parking bays at the transport and environment committee on Thursday.

Six rapid and 15 ‘slow’ (7kW) chargers have already been installed at Ingliston Park and Ride as part of the £2.2 million project, with a further 19 soon to be operational at Hermiston Park and Ride.

In addition, EV power points will be set-up on Maxwell Street, Thirlestane Road, Stewart Terrace, Comely Bank Terrace/Avenue, Sheriff Brae, King’s Road, Montgomery Street, Fettes Avenue, East London Street and Heriot Row.

However, councillors agreed to eliminate India Street from the list of locations previously agreed, after residents complained they would attract too many motorists.

Furthermore, transport officers concluded there would be “significant challenges” installing the two chargers on the cul-de-sac due to the street’s distance from the nearest electrical substation.

A Conservative amendment proposed a range of changes to the existing restrictions on use of the EV points, including scrapping the time limit for ‘fast’ 22kW chargers overnight to allow drivers “to charge overnight without them having to move their vehicles at unsuitable times.”

It also called for the 30-minute time limit for rapid chargers to be extended to 90 minutes, no limit for fast charge points and a maximum 90-minute stay at rapid bays with overstay penalties enforced.

The amendment was defeated by seven votes to four.

by Donald Turvill Local Democracy Reporter

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) is a public service news agency : funded by the BBC, provided by the local news sector, and used by qualifying partners. Local Democracy Reporters cover top-tier local authorities and other public service organisations.

Sue Webber MSP for Lothian at Holyrood 9 June 2021 ©2021 The Edinburgh Reporter