For Eva Parkinson, it simply has to be an EV (electric vehicle) when it comes to getting around Orkney, with the local Co Wheels car club offering the perfect solution to her transport needs.
“Finding green alternatives for day-to-day activities is something I am always consciously on the lookout for,” she says. “My interest was definitely sparked by the idea of car sharing, particularly as all the cars in the club are electric.”
Since its launch last year, Orkney’s Co Wheels car club has seen a big surge in interest, with local residents like Eva switching on to the benefits – personal and environmental - of flexible, low-cost EV rental.
The club is part of the UK wide Co Wheels network, but part managed in Orkney by the Orkney Housing Association Ltd and the ReFLEX project, which has also funded some of the EV fleet available for hire locally.
Once you sign up for a membership, the club offers access to a seven-strong fleet of fully electric pay-as-you go hire cars.
Orkney residents can use a special REFLEX1 code when applying for membership, which means they don’t have to pay the normal £25 sign-up fee. Using the code also means they’ll avoid the need for a £5 per month minimum spend, get a 25-per-cent discount on hourly and daily rates, and receive £25 of start-up credit.
And it’s not just local people who can use the service. Visitors too can sign up for a membership in advance of their stay in Orkney and hire the vehicles to explore the islands, though without the added benefits offered to residents.
Cars can be booked from as little as 30 minutes up to several days - you only pay for the time you hire - with vehicles available for collection in Kirkwall, Stromness, Dounby and Holm.
“I signed up for the car club in December 2020 after a family member flagged it up as something I might be interested in,” says Eva, who lives in Stromness and works from home. “My parents have an electric van which I have been sharing with them since moving back to Orkney in March of last year, but sometimes the practicalities of this led me to think it might be handy to have my own vehicle.
“This is why the car club seemed so perfect for me,” she continues. “It would give me access to a vehicle when I needed one and was a much greener and cheaper alternative than buying a car that I probably wouldn't use all that often.”
For anyone used to driving a petrol or diesel car and concerned the EV experience might be radically different, Eva has this reassurance.
“The cars are very easy to drive,” she says. “It took me a minute to find the parking brake, which is located at your feet instead of traditional hand brake, but apart from that I had no issues at all. Prior to 2020 I had only ever driven manual cars - it takes a couple of minutes to adjust to driving electric but after that I think they are much easier to drive.”
They’re also easy to book. Once your membership is all set up and your licence details added, you can book online or through the Co Wheels mobile app. There are no keys needed either. You’ll receive a membership smartcard that unlocks and starts the car once you’ve booked it.
“At the moment it's definitely more cost effective for me to use the car club,” says Eva. “I work from home and really have no need or desire to own my own car. However, it's great to have easy access to a fleet of cars when I do need one.”
She adds: “To anyone thinking of trying out the car club I would say go for it! You get all the benefits of having access to a car without any of the stresses of owning one.”
To find out more about Orkney’s Co Wheels Car Club, visit the dedicated page on the ReFLEX website.