Think-tank urges retention of tax relief and grants for electric vehicles

Group stresses need for better charging infrastructure if Government targets to be met

In many towns in Ireland there are no ‘fast’ chargers , which deliver at least 50 kilowatts per hour, while the range of on-street ‘slow’ chargers can take many hours to charge a vehicle. Photograph: Alan Betson

In many towns in Ireland there are no ‘fast’ chargers , which deliver at least 50 kilowatts per hour, while the range of on-street ‘slow’ chargers can take many hours to charge a vehicle. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The retention of incentives for the uptake of electric vehicles, as well as home-charging infrastructure, combined with possible increased taxation on petrol and diesel engines, are among the recommendations of a Government think-tank on electric vehicles.

The EV Policy Pathway Working Group – consisting of seven Government departments and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland – considered a mix of policies aimed at reaching ambitious targets of having 180,000 electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads by 2025 and 936,000 by 2030.

The report notes the pace of EV uptake in Ireland has been accelerating over recent years. EV registrations in the first half of 2021 accounted for more than 13 per cent of new vehicle registrations while there are now more than 41,000 EVs on Irish roads. Numbers of battery-only electric vehicles are slightly ahead of plug-in hybrid EVs which have a traditional engine as well as a small battery.

The report makes 36 recommendations, including:

  • The retention of existing EV supports where fiscally possible including grants for EV purchase and home charging – until at least the end of 2022
  • The retention to current levels of VRT relief and positive motor tax treatment until at least the end of 2022
  • That additional measures will be required to further incentivise the purchase of EVs and disincentivise that of fossil-fuelled vehicles

The carrot and stick approach was expected by many in the industry but sources say the absence of a strong focus on the rollout of additional infrastructure – outside of home charging – was a disappointment.

In many towns in Ireland there are no “fast” chargers, which deliver at least 50 kilowatts per hour, while the range of on-street “slow” chargers can take many hours to charge a vehicle. Where fast chargers are in place, and they are most prevalent along motorways, there is frequently only one fast charger per site, and online EV groups monitor and report on the numbers of out-of-order chargers.

Addressing the charging infrastructure the report notes “a key barrier to EV uptake” is “range anxiety” – a fear that drivers will not be able to refuel easily on long-distance journeys, or return to base without being stranded at the side of the road.

The report says “home charging is expected to provide the primary method of charging for the majority of EVs in Ireland and is a convenient, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly means of charging”. It asserts that on-street, location and fast-charging infrastructure “needs to stay ahead of demand”, having particular regard to non-urban needs.

However, a casual look at the map of fast chargers shows considerable gaps in the infrastructure for fast or “rapid” chargers, particularly in the west or rural Ireland.

In terms of disincentives to continue using internal combustion vehicles – known as ICE – the report notes “calculations can be made to favour EVs by increasing the cost of operating an ICE vehicle by raising taxes on carbon-emitting fuel”.

Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan said the State’s Climate Action Plan target of a 51 per cent reduction in transport emissions by 2030 “requires a major step change in how we travel”. He said he would “encourage people to consider buying an EV as a tangible contribution to reducing our country’s CO2 emissions.”