The British car industry may be going down the tubes due to Brexit, but Ireland is about to embark on the manufacture of a car that is carbon neutral and made from the most advanced lightweight materials.
The Spika is a hand-built electric vehicle (EV), which from 2021 is due to be made in Carrick-on-Shannon. A prototype was unveiled at the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland Energy Show on Wednesday.
The car is “an ultra-lightweight two-seater fully electric car with revolutionary scissors doors allowing for ease of entry and exit”.
The chassis is a hybrid carbon fibre/aluminium tub structure that makes it remarkably fuel efficient, according to Tom Finnegan, chief executive of Fintos EVs – it has benefitted from racing industry innovation, notably Formula 1.
The project is a collaboration between DCU Invent in Dublin; Dundalk IT Regional Development Centre and Queen's University Belfast, and illustrates the kind of EV technology now coming on stream, he said – it has a range of 600 kilometres and "quick charge" capability.
It will retail at about €60,000, he confirmed, with the expectation that Fintos will produce 150 cars a year at its base in Co Leitrim. While it is a niche product, it is an indication of how the traditional car is being replaced.
All major car manufacturers were present at Dublin’s RDS with EVs on show ranging from €20,000 to more than €100,000 in price.
Factoring in the gamut of renewable energy options on show, including wind, solar and heat pump technology, as well as insulation materials, meant some €90 million in business was about to be realised over two days, the SEAI predicted.
Already, there has been a six-fold increase in EVs sales in Ireland compared to last year; albeit from a low base. But it indicated a big change in public attitudes, according to its chief executive Jim Gannon.
It “reflects what we have seen in society in the past six to nine months. It’s really important to us, that when society says they want to understand how to tackle climate change, we are there to serve”, he said.
Pat Smith, managing director of Local Power energy services, said public awareness of climate change and of the need to reduce emissions among householders, businesses and farmers "has grown significantly over the past 12 months".
There was, however, a critical need to incentivise those wishing to adopt sustainable practices, and these should be put in place before any move to increase carbon tax, he added.
Grid owners and regulators needed to be directed by the Government to make grid access available at low cost, and ensure prioritisation of “microgeneration” where small producers could feed excess power they create into the grid.
Mr Smith said solar costs had reduced by 90 per cent over the past decade, yet some businesses have seen a 15 per cent increase in electricity in the past year, mainly due to increased fossil fuel costs.
An SEAI grant for retrofitting homes was attractive with a seven- to eight-year payback, but people should concentrate most on the reduced energy bills and improved value in their homes it brought. For businesses, he suggested a 30 per cent grant should be available with a view to a quicker payback.