The Irish Times view on electric vehicles: Moving slowly

Taoiseach’s suggestion that EVs be allowed to use bus lanes smacks of old, failed approach

The embrace of EVs and battery-powered hybrids is accelerating across the world, though for most drivers, without subsidies, they are prohibitively expensive. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

The embrace of EVs and battery-powered hybrids is accelerating across the world, though for most drivers, without subsidies, they are prohibitively expensive. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

 

When it comes to climate action, transport is one of the carbon-polluting sectors set to cause headaches for years to come. The difficulty is glaring in Ireland.

The cultural attachment to the fossil-fuelled car will not be easily pushed aside. So much so, petrol and diesel is likely to dominate the fuel mix beyond 2040.

Difficulties are compounded by lack of investment in public transport, poorly-designed urban spaces and disjointed policy measures – notably in Dublin, one of the slowest-moving capital cities in Europe for commuters.

Yes, the embrace of electric vehicles (EV) and battery-powered hybrids is accelerating across the world though for most drivers, without subsidies, they are prohibitively expensive. They are, however, expected to be as cheap as a diesel car by 2025.

Getting as many cars as possible off city roads, electric or not, should be the aim

But plans to put almost a million EVs on Irish roads by 2030, while environmentally desirable, appear to be banking too much on reaching that tipping point.

Sales are nowhere near the necessary yearly average of 100,000 EVs to bridge to that point. Separately, global supply issues will not help matters. So that Government target, a key climate action, looks unrealistic.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s suggestion that EVs be allowed to use bus lanes smacks of the old failed approach. It will not ease congestion and runs contrary to his own Government’s commitment to BusConnects and public transport. Getting as many cars as possible off city roads, electric or not, should be the aim.

Dr Paul Deane of MaREI energy research centre in UCC has underlined how the scale of the challenge is such that no one change will be sufficient. “It will not be solved with biofuels.

It will not be solved with EVs. It will not be solved with public transport. You need a mix of different technologies including behavioural change,” he said.

There is a case for ensuring a better balance to that mix and incorporating heavily-subsidised public transport, congestion charges and safer cycling infrastructure to have a much better chance of success.

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