The Government’s toll discount of up to 50 per cent for users of electric and other low emission vehicles is to be scrapped at the end of the year.
Since July 2018 the Low Emission Vehicle Toll Incentive Scheme operated by the Department of Transport has offered toll discounts for alternatively fuelled vehicles including battery, plug in hybrid, cars and vans.
The scheme was expanded in 2020 to include toll reductions for electric motorbikes, hydrogen-fuelled passenger cars and small public service vehicles, as well as heavy duty vehicles such as trucks, buses and coaches fuelled by gas or hydrogen.
Now, however, the abolition of the toll discount scheme comes as a double blow to electric vehicle (EV) drivers who, along with all other motorists, will also be facing an inflation-related rise in toll charges from January 2024, motorway operator Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has confirmed.
The ending of the toll discount scheme is the latest move in the curtailment of incentives for EVs, and follows a reduction in the maximum grant for an electric car from €5,000 to €3,500 in July.
VRT (Vehicle Registration Tax) relief has also been restricted to a maximum amount of €5,000 while tax relief has been removed entirely on any EV costing above €50,000. While the average cost of a new car in Ireland is about €40,000, the average cost of an EV is in the region of €64,000.
Since December 2020 private imports from Britain have been subject to 23 per cent VAT on the value of the vehicle, due to Brexit.
The move to end the toll discounts also follows a doubling of the cost of on-street electric charging in November 2022. At that point, it was cheaper to drive some diesel cars, than electric equivalents.
Speaking in the Dáil in April, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said “providing a sustainable, low-carbon transport system is a key priority of my department”.
He said “ultimately, the goal is for a zero-emission mobility system by 2050″ and reiterated the Government’s “ambitious target of 945,000 EVs on our roads by 2030″.
In July, a total of 4,161 EVs were sold in Ireland which the car industry said was a record month for the type. However, according to Tom Spencer of the online EV publication irishevs.com, sales “fell off a cliff after July”. Mr Spencer said he believed dealers had pre-bought vehicles because of a cut in the level of grant aid from €5,000 to €3,500 midyear.
He drew attention to Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) figures which show EV sales fell almost 20 per cent in September.
The Department of Transport said “Government investment for electric vehicles will continue to rebalance towards supporting EV charging infrastructure”. It said “this change aligns with similar polices in European nations, where countries including Norway, Germany and France have begun to curb vehicle subsidies and Government investment in EVs is moving towards infrastructure”.