2020 target for 350,000 electric cars


A target of 350,000 electric vehicles on Irish roads and no petrol or diesel cars on sale by 2020 was set out yesterday by an Oireachtas energy committee, writes PADDY COMYN

A new report from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security recommends targets whereby all new cars on sale by 2020 would have electric engines, with at least 350,000 electric vehicles in use by that year, 100,000 more than the target already set by the Government.

By 2016, the committee wants 100,000 privately-operated battery electric vehicles on Irish roads. No petrol or diesel engines will be sold as new cars by 2020 – the difference between running them and running electric vehicles will be so vast there will be no demand, said the report’s author, Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney.

“We recognise that targets are being set, but we are asking the Government to be more ambitious and more proactive in the infrastructure required to make that happen,” he said. “This is the biggest carbon-reduction initiative under consideration by Government, bar none.

“We are talking about transforming car transport in Ireland to reduce emissions by up to eight million tonnes per year.

“We have about 1,200 megawatts of capacity coming from wind in Ireland at the moment, but only a fraction is used in peak times for energy and, if we can create a symbiotic relationship between transport and energy, driven by electricity, both sectors can benefit.”

The report doesn’t go into specifics on incentives for buyers and it notes that the success of electric vehicles depends in part on manufacturers ramping up production of both batteries and vehicles and the presence of the proper infrastructure.

The committee has met with Better Place, a start-up led by former SAP executive Shai Agassi. The Better Place model is that the battery, which makes up a major cost of an electric vehicle, would be treated separately to the car. Buyers would lease the battery and buy kilometres, just like minutes are bought from a mobile phone company.

This would not only keep the cost down, but would also address the issue of the short range of such vehicles. A purpose-built swapping station would allow users to swap batteries. Pilot programmes of Better Place are being rolled out in Israel, Denmark and Japan.

The committee pointed out that Ireland is suited to the rollout of electric vehicles by virtue of its size, the fact that it is an island nation and the potential of wind energy. The committee will report its findings to the Government in the coming weeks.