Plans to expand the State’s network of electric vehicle (EV) charging points might ease “range anxiety” among some prospective buyers after a year of record EV car sales, but persistent questions remain over whether ambitious targets for future EV ownership can be met.
The new plan is for high-powered electric vehicle chargers every 60km within three years, alongside home and apartment charging and other EV charging options. By 2030, it is hoped that nearly one-third of private cars will be an EV.
However, there is a long distance to travel. In 2022, 16,162 new EVs were registered, compared with 8,646 in 2021 and just 3,444 in 2019, with more than half of all EVs bought in Dublin and Cork. The number includes 484 EVs imported last year. In all, there are 73,500 EVs of all types on the roads, including second-hands.
The 60km charging point rule is “hugely positive”, says Brian Cooke, the director general of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI): “[It] should give motorists an additional incentive to look closely at choosing an EV as their next car.”
Fretful motorists, worried that they will run out of power, need that confidence, though: “Home charging is a convenient way to charge and will support the majority of EV charging, [but] this is not an option for everyone,” Cooke told The Irish Times.
Less than a year ago, SIMI described the Government’s 2030 EV ambitions as “extremely challenging”. Then, there were 1,900 EV chargers installed at 800 sites across the island, but SIMI warned then that it fell far short of the 4,700 realistically needed.
Today, EV charging is commercially viable is some urban areas, but “there are parts of the country where this is not the case, and this is where Government should provide its own investment in partnership with the private sector”, Cooke goes on.
Last year, hybrid, electric and plug-in hybrid accounted for 41 per cent of the market, with pure EVs making up one in seven of all new vehicles. Petrol accounted for 30.16 per cent of registrations, while the once-dominant diesel accounted for 26.77 per cent.
The top five EV sellers are the Volkswagen ID.4, the Hyundai Ioniq, the Tesla Model 3, the Kia EV 6 and the Volkswagen ID.3. Up to 25,000 new EVs are expected to be bought during 2023, though the final number will be determined by international supply chains, but also by State tax breaks.
“Investment in charging is only one piece of the jigsaw. The Government needs to continue to support the purchase of EVs through the extension of grants and VRT reliefs. The electrification of the fleet is a huge challenge, one which will require the right economic and taxation environment,” says Cooke.
Just 11 months ago SIMI described the 2030 EV ambitions as “extremely challenging”. Then, there were 1,900 EV chargers installed at 800 sites across the island of Ireland, with SIMI claiming that the number of charging points falls far short of the 4,700 realistically needed.
Through its ecars network first set up in 2010, the ESB operates and maintains approximately 1,400 public charge points across the State, and it hopes to have 3,000 chargers available by 2030, but it is not the only supplier.
According to the Irish Electric Vehicle Owners Association (IEVOA), other suppliers include Irish company EasyGo, Circle K, Applegreen, Ionity and Tesla, with composite maps of charging points available (with some geographic exceptions) on apps such as OpenChargeMap, Zapmap and Plugshare.
However, according to the IEVOA, the biggest demand is not for more public charging points, but for more help to install ones in people’s homes, since 90 per cent of EV owners will charge their vehicles at home 99 per cent of the time.
One million home chargers will be required by 2030, the IEVOA believes: “From today, that would be 10,000 domestic installs every month for the next several years. This represents a more damning issue for the switch to EVs.”
The Government-funded Electric Vehicle Home Charger Grant helps residents and homeowners grants worth up to €600 for home chargers. Since last September the scheme supports only Triple E smart chargers, the most efficient ones available.
Last July, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan offered a slew of grants to boost charger numbers, including grants to install them in apartment blocks, or to help people install one if they are renting homes, and funding for sports clubs.
The State does not have to worry that a surge in overnight charging will drain electricity supply, according to Dr Paul Deane, senior researcher in clean energy futures with Science Foundation Ireland’s MaREI Centre in University College Cork: “There is plenty of research to show that it would be fine,” he says.
Instead, he points to broader trends, including last year’s rising fuel costs. Road transport emissions for 2022 up to November grew by 6 per cent on the 2021 figures, with petrol and diesel recovering quickly after a 4 per cent dip in June and July when fuel prices went over €2 per litre.
Switching the FREE NOW taxi fleet in Dublin to EVs would cut taxi carbon emissions in the capital by 77 per cent, but this is hampered by a lack of city centre charging points and a shortage of suitable EV taxi vehicles, research found recently.
Last October, Mr Ryan said EVs were part of the solution, but only part of it: “If we just replace all the existing cars with electric cars, we will still see the gridlock and the huge social negative consequences that come with relying on such a car-based system.”