PUBLIC charging points for electric cars are being misused in Fife with drivers using them instead for all-day free parking.

They've also been able to 'fuel' up for free but that's set to change with the local authority out to make motorists pay from April 1 next year.

There are 39 public charging units in car parks and transport interchanges, including the park & rides at Halbeath and Ferrytoll, and Dunfermline Queen Margaret railway station.

The use of electric vehicles is increasing but Derek Crowe, senior manager for roads and transportation, insisted the current approach was "not working".

He told councillors: “Over the last 10 years, the Scottish Government has been priming the network of electric vehicle (EV) charging points to local authorities, offering grants to install the charging points.

"Fife Council will see the number of charging points rise from 39 to 68 by the end of the financial year.

“However, the current arrangement of the council paying for the electricity is not working. It’s a good idea but it’s not working.

"The infrastructure is not working as it was intended to work.

"We see cars sitting in charging spots all day, who are maybe only charging for short periods of time, so they can make use of free, all-day parking.”

Analysis found that while the average charging time on the 'trickle' type of charger was less than an hour, cars were being left in the free parking space for an average of six hours.

Dunfermline North councillor Ian Ferguson, who owns an electric vehicle, said: “Technology is also moving on with this. If in 10 years' time, the norm is 500 miles a charge and there’s super-fast charging in five minutes, it will be like getting petrol on a forecourt.

"You wouldn’t expect to get petrol and park all day on a forecourt so it’s also important to challenge the way people think.”

The Scottish Government financed the current EV network, which included maintenance funding for an initial five years, but this arrangement is set to end from the start of 2023.

Councils will then have to pick up the tab.

The charging units have a 10-year design life, replacements will be required from 2024 and to replace all 39 would cost at least £316,000 at current prices.

In 2018-19, providing electricity and maintenance for the charging network cost the council almost £60,000.

Mr Crowe said: “The principle of the policy is still to support a growing charger network, especially in this climate emergency time, but it needs to move forward in a self-financing way.”

Change is being driven by the Scottish Government's ambition to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032, to help reduce carbon emissions and increase travel options.

Over the past two years in Fife, the number of public EV users and their consumption of electricity have both grown by more than 100 per cent.

Mr Crowe said: "As the network grows, this cost will only increase and hence it is considered necessary to apply a charge for this previously free service."

The amount the council will charge the public is still to be decided.

Transport Scotland don't want drivers to pay more than 25p/kWh but confirmed that the "ultimate decision" rests with local authorities.