The future of car hire has arrived in Stornoway – and it’s electric. (March 2016) Ten brand new electric cars are now available to hire for as little as an hour at a time, offering a green, convenient and economical alternative to standard vehicle ownership.  The new venture is a collaboration between Zero Carbon Marine Ltd (operators of the Pentland Road Windfarm), Car-Hire Hebrides Ltd and E-Car Club, who operate entirely electric car clubs across the UK.

The fleet consists of one Renault Kangoo Z.E van and nine Renault Zoe hatchbacks, which can achieve around 70-90 miles on a single charge and feature climate control, cruise control and satellite navigation as standard.  Hire costs for the Zoes will be just £5.50 per hour/£45 per day, and the Kangoo will be £7.50 per hour/£60 per day. All prices include insurance and there is, of course, no fuel to pay for!  Charging points for the cars are dotted along the length of the islands, with a rapid charging point situated at the Sandwick Road offices of the Comhairle.  Other charging points are available at CalMac ports and several other locations.  A rapid charge takes around 30 minutes from empty to full, while normal charging points take a little longer.

“With a bit of planning, you will never run out of power,” Patrick Cresswell, Marketing Manager with E-Car Club said.  “We did a test drive from the Butt of Lewis to the southernmost tip of the Isle of Barra, and every time we arrived at a ferry port we charged the car.  We managed the journey no problem.”  The electric cars provide constant feedback on how much range is left.   “Given the size of Lewis and Harris, it’s unlikely that local residents will really need to charge up during their booking, but it was great to put this to the test and see that the infrastructure on the islands is completely reliable and sensibly spread out,” said Patrick.

The average car journey the in UK is about 30 miles, while it’s reckoned that the average privately owned vehicle sits parked up for 95 per cent of its life.   “Part of our business model is tackling that inefficiency,” said Patrick.  “You don’t need to fork out on a big car and pay insurance and tax when you’re not using it.” 

A quirky feature of the electric cars is the noise. Or rather, the lack of it.   While some electric cars are completely silent, the Stornoway cars will produce a synthesized sound from between zero and 17 miles per hour, to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists nearby.  Anything above that speed is just road noise.  The award-winning cars are also high-spec, featuring in-built Sat-Nav and Bluetooth audio.

But arguably the most innovative feature of the new hire service is its accessibility.   The cars can be hired 24/7 using cutting-edge online technology.   Patrick explained: “With E-Car Club you only need to have your details checked once, and after that you are a fully-fledged member with the ability to go and help yourself to any of the cars at any time of day.  “If you wanted a car at midnight for an hour, that’s completely possible.  When you sign up to E-Car Club you get a call from head office, which is three-way with you and the DVLA to check you are over 19 years old, have been driving more than a year, and that you don’t have more than six penalty points.

“After that, we will set up payment details and send you out a membership pack and card.  That card is an RFID (radio-frequency identification) card, so when you book a car, you tap your card on the windscreen which opens the car doors.  Inside the car the keys are already there.  You only require your PIN, which you are sent by email, to release the keys and then you are ready to go.”   For more info on electric car hire in Stornoway, and to receive a generous introductory membership offer (£25 instead of £50, with your first £10 driving credit included for free) please see