Having been awarded a BBNP Sustainable Development Fund grant a few weeks ago, we have now set up a not-for-profit company “Eco Travel Network Ltd” (ETN) which will purchase, own and insure an electric vehicle fleet and lease them to member (tourist accommodation) businesses for them to use themselves, advertise their business and, most importantly, rent out to their visiting customers to explore the area instead of using their cars. This allows the individual businesses to generate revenue to offset the vehicle leasing cost.

As far as we know, this will be the first ever eco-vehicle tourist rental scheme operating in the UK.

Timescales to launch the scheme this summer were always tight and very sadly, due to supply problems, we are not going to be able to get the set of product standard b-bugs built and running for July 1st which was our target for the 2012 tourist season. The buggy element of the plan will now have to wait until 2013 but is still very much part of our thinking. .

But the exciting news is that, in the past week, we have managed to set up an alternative fleet of vehicles for rental this summer – they are Renault Twizys – funky electric, open-sided, tandem-style quadricycles launched by Renault UK in April. They have a 50 mile range and a top speed of 50 mph.

Renault Electric UK is helping sponsor the vehicles and they are being supplied by our local Renault dealer, Callow Marsh, in Hereford.

The first of the fleet, “Thierry”, arrived yesterday and we enjoyed driving him the 40 miles home from Hereford in this glorious sunshine. He managed the distance with energy to spare (driven at a cautious 30mph) but happily zipped up to 50 mph on short bursts of the A road.

Thanks to the efforts of Callow Marsh Renault, Thierry is with us in time to appear at the Hay Festival as part of a promotional launch of the Eco Travel Network. 

Meanwhile the prototype trial b-bugs,  Boris and Blodwen, have reluctantly been returned to Dragon Electric Vehicles for a period of rest and recuperation but I’m sure they will be seeing action again in the near future judging by the level of interest they attract wherever they go.

Certainly, the Eco Travel Network hopes to expand its membership and fleet over time to include a wide variety of lightweight vehicles including, we hope b-bugs.

From now onwards, you can follow the project’s ongoing progress in its new guise as the Eco Travel Network and/or come and visit the Brecon Beacons this summer and try a Twizy. We will be publishing the list of accommodation providers who will be offering Twizys for hire in the next month on the Eco Travel Network site.

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b-bugs 2012 are GO!

We are delighted to announce that the Brecon Beacons National Park Sustainable Development Fund has today awarded a 50% project grant which will enable us to set up the ‘Eco Travel Network’  – a not-for-profit company which will purchase, insure and maintain 5 b-bugs designed and built by Dragon Electric Vehicles of Cwmdu.

The plan for 2012 is for 5 local tourist businesses to become network members which will mean paying an annual rental and membership fee in return for which they will host a b-bug and be able to drive it around themselves, use it to promote their business (b-bugs are eye catching) and rent out to their customers to use to explore the area instead of using their cars.

Hopefully, by July, visitors to the Brecon Beacons National Park will be able to enjoy staying at a b-bug host location and trying the b-bug experience for themselves.

b-bugs use 1 kWh for every 7 miles they drive whereas cars typically use 7 kWh to cover that distance and, as much as possible, the b-bugs will be charged from electricity generated by our own natural Welsh elements – sun (well occasionally), rain and wind!

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April 2012 update on b-bug project

Plans for b-bugs 2012 are progressing. We will know by 1st May whether we have been awarded the key grant we need to move ahead with setting up a not-for-profit ‘eco-travel co-operative’ to purchase, insure and rent out 5 b-bugs to 5 member tourist businesses. In parallel, we are seeking a further £10k either sponsorship or grant to cover our remaining start up costs. If the scheme works, then the plan is to extend it to include more members and a wider variety of low-carbon, fun-to-drive vehicles for visitors and residents to try.

You can read the latest b-bug project brief here.

And our strategy for “light green transport” in rural Wales is here.

Please get in touch if you would like to learn more about the project or sponsor a b-bug.

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b-bugs on ‘The One Show’ – Wed 14th March 7pm

Boris b-bug will feature on the The One Show BBC1 on Wednesday 14th March at 7pm.

The focus of the programme is rural transport poverty and they were interested in Talybont’s community car share scheme which is funded by the community hydro.  We explained that one problem with car clubs in rural areas is how to get from a couple of miles up a hill where you live to where the community cars are kept or how to reach the nearest bus route. We explained how part of the motivation behind the b-bugs is whether we can introduce ultra cheap, lightweight personal transport that will work for all those short run journeys and tie in with car share schemes. b-bugs use only 1kWh per 7 miles and can therefore be recharged via domestic PV panels.

Boris enjoyed the limelight anyway!

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Update on b-bugs 2012

Here is our latest update on b-bug 2012 progress.

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b-bugs for hire in 2012 ? – latest progress

As close followers of the b-bug project know, we have been trying to find ways to take the b-bugs from a free research trial of just 2 vehicles in 2011 to a viable b-bug rental scheme for the Brecon Beacons National Park.

The biggest hurdle to date has been finding self-drive hire insurance for the buggies.  We have discovered that most insurance brokers avoid self-drive hire insurance (for any kind of vehicle) and an even tinier number of brokers recognise the concept of a road-legal electric buggy! The latter is not so surprising given that the b-bugs are currently unique vehicles. We are delighted to report that  Zurich Municipal has come to our rescue and  Jon Taylor has been enormously helpful in finding a solution for us that we now need to work within.

We are now exploring the formation of a not-for-profit b-bug co-operative (“BBC”) whose aim will be to promote sustainable tourism travel in our National Park.

The BBC will manage a group insurance and maintenance policy for a small fleet of b-bugs (in Year 1) which will be manufactured and maintained by Dragon Electric Vehicles.  The idea is that individual tourist businesses in our area can opt to join the co-operative and effectively lease a b-bug to host and use themselves, to “livery up” (if they choose) to promote their business and eco-credentials and (obviously) to rent out to their customers to cover (hopefully) their leasing costs.

We’d see how this worked in Year 1 (2012) with a view to  expanding the scheme if it is successful.

We are confident that we will be able to re-activate and  expand our informal electric charge point network of local pubs, cafes, attractions and activity centres. The b-bugs only need a 13amp socket and a full re-charge costs abut 40p of electricity. Last summer, the b-bug charge points benefited from becoming interesting destinations in their own right for the b-buggers.

If you are a tourist business based in this area and think you might like to be involved in 2012, do get in touch with us.

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What’s happening now the trial is over?

People keep asking us “will I be able to offer b-bugs to my customers next season?” or even “can I hire a b-bug NOW?”.

This is the nearest we can give to an answer right now.

1. The b-bug trial was a small-scale research experiment and it finished on October 1st. The b-bugs were a great success and attracted UK wide media attention. You can read a copy of the trial report here.

2. We (The Prospectory) are a research company who study consumer behaviour and design and run eco product trials. We won’t be running a b-bug rental service next year.

3. Our partner, Dragon Electric Vehicles, is planning to manufacture b-bugs to order for private sales. Contact John Lilly directly if you are interested.

3.  We are now exploring possible futures for a b-bug rental business in the Brecon Beacons National Park. This currently involves challenges on a number of fronts:-

– Finding self-drive hire insurance cover for a b-bug fleet. This has taken months of effort but now, thanks to Zurich Municipal, we’ve been able to find cover on the basis of a group policy.

– Exploring possible funding options for the initial build of a small set of b-bugs for 2102.

– Working the numbers (based on the trial data) to check there’s a viable business plan for tourist b-bug rental.

– Identifying a local party to set up or diversify their current business to run a new b-bug rental business in the National Park in collaboration with the individual tourist businesses.

There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm for the b-bugs to live on in the National Park and discussions with different parties are progressing. We will update this site if and when there are tangible steps to report.

Meanwhile, in partnership with Dragon Electric Vehicles, we are continuing to modify and test Boris and Blodwen and enjoy using them and demo-ing them even in wintry conditions.

If you think you can help make b-bug rental a reality, give us a shout.

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