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Businesses in Bristol are set to enjoy free electric vehicle loans thanks to a £3m grant secured by Bristol City Council.

The £3.156m grant from Highways England is due to help Bristol businesses and organisations switch to electric vehicles and reduce air pollution across the city.

The council is planning to establish an Electric Vehicle (EV) Centre of Excellence with a new fleet of EVs, using the funding approved at the cabinet meeting this week (Tuesday 1 September).

The centre will provide expert advice on converting vehicle fleets to electric, as well as giving businesses and organisations free EV loans for up to two-months to give them experience of operating with electric.

The investment is also due to fund five new EV charge point hubs across the city – four public sites suited to commercial vehicles and one for taxis.

Mayor Marvin Rees said: “We are dedicated to cleaning up Bristol’s air pollution in the fastest time possible and creating a healthier city. I am delighted we have been able to secure this funding from Highways England, which will enable us to provide the support businesses and organisations need to start making the transition over to cleaner vehicles.

“It is vital we all work together as a city to reduce pollution and having an EV Centre of Excellence will allow us to provide confidence and experience across the city through expert advice and free vehicle loans. By removing some of the barriers and financial risks for businesses and organisations, we can help Bristol to emerge from the pandemic in a more inclusive and sustainable way.

“We must look at causes of pollution across the board, and as well as encouraging a shift to electric vehicles, we are also working hard to improve walking, cycling and public transport journeys in and around Bristol.”

Cllr Steve Pearce, Cabinet Member for Waste, Commercialisation and Regulatory Services, said: “Giving businesses that chance to ‘try before they buy’ will help remove some uncertainty around important investment decisions in a currently challenging business environment.”

Christopher Plumb, air quality specialist at Highways England, said: “Everyone should be able to enjoy clean air, and electric vehicles can really help improve air quality on our roads.

“Over recent years we’ve made sure that over 95% of England’s motorways and major A-roads are within 20 miles of a rapid electric vehicle charging point. And over the next five years, we’ll be investing £411 million to do more to protect and improve the environment around our roads.

“We’re excited to be supporting Bristol City Council as it encourages more businesses to make the switch to electric, and expect many more to start using electric vehicles when they see the savings possible.”

The EV Centre of Excellence is proposed to be set up as an initial two-year pilot, housed within the council’s existing Fleet Services department at Sandy Park. Implementation will start in the coming months.

It will provide local businesses and organisations with:

  • Free loans of one of 64 EVs for up to two months
  • Expert and impartial assessments and advice on the potential to convert to EVs. This could involve looking at charging requirements including available charging points, calculating reductions in pollution and fuel costs, and analysis of typical routes and distances to assess what vehicles are most appropriate to suit their needs.
  • Support for creating tailored business cases for upgrading to EVs, including support for applying for grants to purchase things like charging points or vehicles.

Press release by Bristol City Council.

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