Motorists are willing to move to electric – they just need a little push

Analysis: Government is delivering some certainty, but still faces a few roadblocks

Motorists thinking about making the move to electric face a lot of uncertainty, from range anxiety to running costs and changes to their daily routines. The Government’s decision not to tamper with the tax rebates on electric vehicles brings some welcome certainty to the mix – at least for the next two years.

The Climate Action Plan envisages 936,000 EVs and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) on Irish roads by 2030, of which 840,000 will be private cars. The plan set out an initial target of 151,000 private EV and PHEV cars on our roads by 2025.

According to Department of Transport figures, at the end of 2020 there were 7,882 EVs registered here, and a further 12,490 PHEVs. New car sales of both formats have been strong this year, with 7,820 new EVs and 7,452 PHEVs added to the fleet. That gives us a grand total of 35,644, leaving us 115,356 short of our 2025 target.

With a new car market that averages 120,000 in a good year, it doesn’t take a maths professor to appreciate the scale of the challenge ahead.


Electric revolution

Yet the momentum is there for an electric revolution and everyone is moving in the same direction. The consumers are willing, the Government is supportive and the motor industry is making the move due to international commitments and regulations.

The options for Irish car buyers are limited and relatively costly. The good news is that new electric cars are on the way and many of them will be competitively priced

The issue now is about the pace of change. The biggest stumbling block is supply – not only the short-term issue related to a shortage of microchips, but more fundamental issues in relation to a wide array of car choice. Currently the options for Irish car buyers are limited and relatively costly. The majority of new EVs on the market now cost over €30,000.

Car firms need time to roll out new models. A new car takes on average two to three years of development and testing before it reaches showrooms. And that’s before the added complexity of creating an electric vehicle with entirely new components and a new supply chain.

Deep pockets

Countries that are home to the car producers are eager to manage the transition to EVs for fear of massive job losses. Car giants have the deep pockets to invest billions into retraining their workforces to build EVs, but smaller-scale suppliers will need more time. In Germany, for example, many of these suppliers are privately-owned mid-sized “Mittelstand” companies that are the cornerstone of its economy. Politicians there – even Green ones – will be loath to see them lose out as car producers sign up new Asian suppliers of EV components.

When it comes to setting the pace, the needs of the Irish market and the Government’s climate goals are not going to carry much weight.

The good news is that new electric cars are on the way and many of them will be competitively priced. At a recent test event attended by The Irish Times, 67 new cars were available for test, all new models hitting European markets in the coming months. Just 16 cars didn’t feature a plug socket, and five were non-plug-in hybrids.

Whether the Climate Action Plan target will be met remains to be seen, but in the face of a massive revolution in the way we move around, the Government’s decision to deliver some certainty in relation to the incentives offered to those who make the change is to be welcomed.