The costs and commitments associated with owning a car can really add up. Insurance, MOT, tax, servicing, cleaning, parking charges and repairs – the list is substantial. These problems can be exasperated in rural communities where local amenities and services have ebbed away and where public transport options are few and far between. Many people can find themselves increasingly isolated without a car.
In a beautiful corner of rural South West Wales however, Wales’ first electric car share club is enabling people to share the cost of motoring with their neighbourhood. With a grant of £25,000 from the National Lottery three years ago, the Cilgwyn Community Group in Newport, Pembrokeshire, was able to lease a brand new electric vehicle and set up a car-sharing club for the area.
Such has been the success of the scheme the group has been able to buy a new electric car outright with the profits and has inspired other groups in neighbouring communities to establish a club of their own. Members pay an annual fee of around £30 and pay £1 an hour and 10p a mile to use the car which can be booked through an online calendar system. Other members can see bookings, so they can arrange to share a lift or request an alteration. Drivers record their miles and time in a book in the car and pay monthly.
Good for the environment and easy on the pocket – the car is powered by a solar panel on the roof and can cover up to 90 miles before needing a re-charge. The vehicles can also be charged with renewable energy, much of it produced from wind and solar turbines locally which means they produce no tailpipe emissions.
One person who can certainly vouch for the benefits of the scheme is 67 year old local artist, Penny Jones. Penny found out about the scheme whilst recuperating at home near Newport after suffering a mild heart attack in October 2012. Like many other self-employed people in the community, Penny needs a car to transport her work to her gallery 20 miles away in Haverfordwest and to various exhibitions elsewhere. She also has to travel to have her paintings framed and to get to the location of various art classes she teaches.
“This electric car scheme has been life changing and life giving,” says Penny. “Many people literally live hand to mouth in this community and I personally lived like that for a long time. You have to adapt to living a much simpler life. My teaching income is a vital part of how I earn a living and the car share scheme has been a blessing because I can’t afford to keep a car on the road by myself. It’s helped my business in a rural area where good transport and access to technology are essential to success.
“The money I’ve saved by doing this is unbelievable. The car is the shared responsibility of the group and it takes away the stress that comes with owning a car and it means I can just use it occasionally when I need to get somewhere where the buses don’t go and to carry large pieces of work I’ve done which I can’t carry with me on public transport. There are no buses after 7pm either so the only option for me to get to places in the evening is the electric car.”
The scheme has also had some additional health and social benefits for Penny. “I value the benefits of exercise even more after the heart attack,” she says. “I live a couple of miles away from where the car is based and it means I can cycle or walk to get the car as part of my daily exercise routine and then use the car to get to where I am working. I’ve also got to know people in the community much better and made some good friends.”
This blog is helping to promote the National Lottery Community Fund’s Rural Programme. Community groups can apply to share £13.5 million to make great thing happen in rural Wales.