Drivers of electric vehicles will have to pay at charging points for first time

‘If we want to have a reliable network in Ireland we are going to have some way of supporting that’

Drivers of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will have to pay at public charging points for the first time next year, the ESB has said.

The charging network has been free for the past nine years, partly as a measure to encourage the use of alternative green technology.

However, from the middle of 2019, charges will begin to apply on a phased basis, beginning with “fast charge” points and later spreading to all other outlets. The specific rates have yet to be finalised.

The fast charge “super hubs” – banks of eight and four 150kW chargers capable of giving a car 100km worth of power in about six minutes – are due to be installed on motorways and primary routes before the charges are introduced.


The ESB said the revenue raised would go towards providing a network capable of meeting ambitious targets to end new petrol and diesel vehicle sales from 2030.

“From our point of view, the only way that we are going to improve the network, that we can keep the standard up, that we can replace the technologies is actually by making it more commercial and by introducing a level of fee,” said Marguerite Sayers, ESB’s executive director of customer solutions.

Sales of various electric vehicles have been increasing quickly – the total rising from 3,800 at the end of 2017 to about 7,000 this year – and are expected to rise further in line with technological improvements and consumer comfort.

While the level of those payments and how they will be levied – whether through subscription or pay-as-you-go – must be thrashed out in a prolonged series of consultations next year, their arrival has been long anticipated.

"Most of the EV drivers that I have met have said, you know what, I wouldn't mind [paying] if the infrastructure was fast, if there was enough of it there and if it was reliable," Ms Sayers told the Sunday Business Post EV Summit on Wednesday.

"If we want to have a reliable network in Ireland, " she later added, "then we are going to have some way of supporting that."

Ms Sayers said that this would entail a charging world in which the so-called “range anxiety” of those who fret about how far they can travel before needing more power can be conquered. It will require “seamless fuelling”, she said, without long waiting times and with reliability.

From next year, the ESB, which runs the network, will begin to supercharge its existing infrastructure. Beginning on motorways and national primary routes, “super hubs” of four or eight 150kW chargers will appear, capable of fuelling an EV to a distance of 100km in just six minutes.

Elsewhere, the familiar 50kW fast chargers, together with a super charger, will appear in blocks of three. Existing 22kw stations will also be upgraded.

Ms Sayers does not believe the introduction of fees for such services will act as a disincentive.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan agreed charges are necessary – but added that they should be matched by significant State investment to rapidly accelerate network development.

"People realise you can't have it for free," he told The Irish Times. "The really frustrating thing is getting access to charging points. I think [car owners] would pay a fee if they knew that the infrastructure was there."

More than €30 million has been invested in the network over the last eight years, taking us to about 900 public charge points.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times