Electric Vehicles – What To Do On An Island With No Fuel Station?

The Island of Fetlar is one of the more remote Shetland Islands which, in common with other small islands shares similar issues. These range from severe depopulation and high cost of living to concerns over the future provision of transport for locals. To counter these challenges the community on Fetlar formed a development company, Fetlar Developments Ltd (FDL) which to date has had some significant success in addressing the key issues.

Green electric vehicle fetlar shetland
Green electric vehicle in Fetlar, Shetland

Unfortunately, the island does not have a fuel station and therefore islanders have to travel off the island for fuel, with the exception of a few crofters who have private diesel tanks. The development company has investigated the provision of a filling station, but this was shown to be unviable. As most islanders have to travel some distance to get fuel, this inevitably significantly increases both their costs and associated CO2 emissions.

When the Post office announced the withdrawal of their “Postbus” service it prompted the community to look at other options for local community transport. In particular those which minimised emissions. After careful consideration of the options available at the time, a commercially available electric minibus was selected.

The idea was simple, the island has a readily available supply of fuel – electricity, hence potential to recharge an electric vehicle. This meant that the vehicle did not have to leave the island to re fuel. As electrical power is cheaper than petrol or diesel, the operating cost reductions would help offset the higher capital costs as well as lowering CO2 emissions.

green electric van onto a ferry in fetlar shetland
Green electric van about to board onto a Shetland Island Ferry in fetlar



Based on operational experience and local energy prices, the cost of energy to run the minibus equates to approximately one third of the cost of an equivalent diesel vehicle. Assistance was secured by the community in way of FDL, with the significant purchase costs of the electric minibus.

Following the acquisition of the vehicle, the Fetlar Museum Trust has looked to support the further use of electric vehicles by installing fast charging points. These are currently being installed at Fetlar Interpretive Centre.

The Green Electric Vehicle plan

But the plan is to go even further to reduce carbon emissions. FDL are currently working on the “Fetlar Green Energy” scheme, which will use the electricity produced by 2 wind turbines locally, to charge the minibus but also to provide a micro district heating scheme, supplying heat to the local school and a nearby house. This scheme will not only make operation of the minibus virtually carbon free but will also help to further reduce carbon emissions produced by oil and solid fuel heating systems used in the buildings. Income from the scheme will also help to make the company more sustainable.

Robert Thomson, Development Worker with Fetlar Developments Ltd, said, “We are pleased that the first phase of our project is complete. We have taken delivery of our electric minibus, which has been adapted to allow full disabled access and our small network of 3 phase charge points has been installed. We are working hard to make sure that the second phase of our project, to provide green energy, goes ahead according to plan.”