Six new electric cars have joined Plymouth City Council’s vehicle fleet as part of a two-year pilot, part-funded by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The Nissan LEAF vehicles, leased from Vospers as part of the funding arrangement, are being trialled as pool cars to assess how much can be saved on fuel and maintenance costs, while reducing harmful carbon emissions.

As well as forming part of the general fleet the 100 per cent electric, zero emission cars can also be booked out by staff travelling in and around the city on Council business, reducing the number of mileage claims that are submitted.

It is hoped the new cars will reduce carbon emissions by nearly 12 tonnes a year compared to their petrol or diesel equivalents.

Together they are expected to cover around 72,000 miles each year, saving around £26,000 in fuel costs over the two years of the trial. There will also be savings on maintenance.

The DfT’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has awarded £112,500 towards the pilot through its Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) Readiness Project, with the Council contributing the remaining £37,500.

Councillor Brian Vincent, Cabinet Member for Streetscene, said: “Thanks to the OLEV funding we secured, we are effectively leasing these cars at a quarter of the normal cost. Not only have we been able to replace fleet vehicles that had reached their shelf-life much more cheaply but we can also find out what savings we can achieve using electric cars.

“If the trial goes well and the cost benefits are good we will hopefully introduce more electric vehicles into our fleet. We are also exploring the use of hybrid technology.”

Steve Hancock, EV specialist at Vospers said: “We’re delighted to supply Plymouth City Council with a fleet of the latest technology in EV vehicles. The Nissan Leaf is zero emission electric which means that it’s environmental impact is significantly reduced compared to a conventional vehicle.”

The Council has already installed charging points at its Ballard House, Midland House and Windsor House offices and Prince Rock Depot to support the introduction of electric fleet vehicles, alongside public points in the Regent Street, Theatre Royal and Western Approach car parks, all three park and ride sites, City College Plymouth, the Cumberland Centre and Derriford and Mount Gould Hospitals.