Which cars are bad for environment? Irish consumers are confused

New motor trade lobby group wants to delay ban on diesel and petrol engines until 2040

Irish consumers are “deeply confused” about the environmental impact of their motor vehicle and future purchasing options, and believe the Government’s proposed 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars is unachievable, according to an opinion poll conducted by a new motor trade lobby group

The findings in a survey of more than 1,000 people were published on Wednesday by the Irish Car Carbon Reduction Alliance (ICCRA). The new campaign group, made up of car dealers and almost every car brand in Ireland, accepts the need to decarbonise motoring.

The level of public confusion is leading to the slow uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) and a failure to embrace vehicles with cleaner fuels, ICCRA said. It has called for the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to be pushed back to 2040.

It has set out a plan to get Ireland to "zero car emissions" and launched a website, E-Way2040.ie, for motorists to learn more about engine options with that target in mind.


The main poll findings were that just over half of respondents (53 per cent) are confused about the car options and their impact on the environment; 86 per cent don’t know the CO2 emissions output of their current vehicle; and less than half (42 per cent) say the Government plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars in 2030 in Ireland would definitely, or quite likely stop them, from buying a petrol or diesel car in the next five years;

Are regards EVs, 74 per cent said cost was a concern, followed by lack of appropriate charging infrastructure (70 per cent) and lack of sufficient time (57 per cent).

Almost 8 out of 10 people surveyed believe the Government’s proposed 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is unachievable.


ICCRA spokesman Denis Murphy said Irish consumers – and the motoring sector – strongly support reducing car carbon footprint. "However, they want clarity and cost-effective solutions that can have a real and lasting positive impact; not confusion and unrealistic targets," he added.

In addition, the conflicting information on what is actually an environmentally-friendly car is a concern for two thirds of Irish consumers, the lobby group said. The survey, he said, indicates 62 per cent of consumers would be willing to consider buying a car with an internal combustion engine if it could be shown to be more environmentally friendly.

Consumers have to be reassured with access to information to make informed choices when seeking to purchase more fuel-efficient and less carbon-emitting cars, Mr Murphy believed. “However, current Government policy and the climate action plan is creating a fog of confusion and red lights. This is despite the fact that current technological innovations could bring petrol and diesel engine cars close to zero emissions by 2030.”

As coronavirus restrictions ease, increased traffic would serve as a reminder of the need to incentivise immediate action to reduce fuel emissions, he said.

“As we move through the phase of reopening Irish society we can expect a significant increase in traffic as commuters reconsider public transport for multiple reasons.”

Simply banning cars was not feasible and the motor lobby group believes the best way to reduce emissions in the transport sector is to incentivise the replacement of old emissions-intensive cars with newer, more fuel-efficient models.

The group’s campaign was what Ireland’s EU counterparts were working towards and to which car manufacturers were committed to achieving, with an approach backed by EU legislation and academic thinking, he said. “ICCRA is seeking a cooperative approach between Government, industry and policymakers on this important issue.”

“We know from this research EVs will not be the answer for the overwhelming majority of Irish consumers for many years to come. Currently, there are around 8,500 electric vehicles on the roads, not even 1 per cent of the Government’s target of 840,000 EVs on the road by 2030,” the ICCRA spokesman noted

Given the average cost of an EV was more than €21,000 more expensive (before subsidies) than the average new petrol car and with the lack of charging stations, especially in rural Ireland, this would not change anytime soon, he predicted. “The net result will be many older, emissions-intensive cars on the road much longer than they should be as consumers hold off new car purchases.”

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times