DONEGAL Local Link driver Jackie Holmes purchased the first fully electric wheelchair access hackney in Europe two years ago.
Mr Holmes works as a Renal Dialysis driver and he takes passengers between Letterkenny University Hospital and their homes across the Inishowen peninsula three times a week.
The innovative zero emission hackney offers full wheelchair accessibility with a lowered floor conversion and Mr Holmes would buy another electric hackney vehicle tomorrow – if only he had some place to plug it in.
“I’m living in a fast charger desert here in Donegal. There’s one electric fast charge station in Letterkenny and another in Lifford but there’s none at all in Inishowen,” he said.
“I took a big chance when I bought the vehicle. It cost me a lot of money but this is the work I’ve been doing for the past forty-two years and I want to make journeys as comfortable as possible for my passengers. It’s not all about sick people going to hospital. They enjoy their journey up and down the road and we have a bit of fun. I like the vehicle but, unfortunately, I don’t know how practical it is,” he said.
The nearest electric fast charging point to Letterkenny University Hospital is Tobin’s service station on Port Road. He said it wasn’t practical to drop the vehicle off at other, slower points, in the town, make his way home by other means, then fetch it when the battery was full, while at the same time avoid hogging the charger space.
“If I don’t get a fast charge in Letterkenny I have to try and get to Lifford as I can’t afford to sit for three hours waiting on a charge. The twenty minute fast charge allows me to top up by seventy or eighty per cent. I can then get my work done and get home again,” he explained.
“If the government is encouraging people to go down the electric route they would need to put the proper infrastructure in place, and fast. Otherwise there will be a queue from Tobin’s to Newtowncunningham with each vehicle looking for a half hour charge,” he said.
Mr Holmes late father, James, was a bus operator in Castlefin. He bought the first microbus in Donegal, a split windscreen Volkswagen, Type 1, registration number CIH 646.
“Dad bought the first mini bus in Donegal and I bought the first fully electric wheelchair access hackney. I’m very happy with the vehicle. It’s doing all my dialysis work in Letterkenny. It’s an eNV while many of the taxis in London and New York use the NV.
The Nissan E-NV200 is a full 100% electric plug-in vehicle with a 40kw battery and fast charge system. It will offer a range of between 200 and 300 Km on a single charge.
“It has zero emissions and provides more sustainable and eco-friendly transport. It works well for me.
“However, due to its limited range it wouldn’t be suitable for some other operators who are faced with longer journeys in Donegal. They don’t come cheap and having spent all that money you need the vehicle to be out there working not spending half the day plugged into a charger.
“That said, they’re progressing all the time and if I can one that does 300 miles on a charge then I would be interested in buying a new one. That would allow me to go to Dublin and back on the one charge without being stuck somewhere along the way,” he said.