Watts next: Irish Times view on the switch to electric cars

Major car brands at Geneva motor show only showed electric or plug-in hybrid models

A charging station for electric cars is presented during the 89th Geneva International Motor Show this week.

A charging station for electric cars is presented during the 89th Geneva International Motor Show this week.

 

The mandatory feature on every new production model or wacky prototype at this week’s Geneva motor show seemed to be an electric plug. Several major car brands had no non-electric – or at the very least only plug-in hybrid – models on display.

Of course, most of the electrically-powered metal on display at Europe’s top automotive gathering will not arrive in Irish showrooms before the middle of next year. That’s partly down to the lead times in developing these models, especially extending the range between battery charges.

The swift pace of change is welcome but, in an Irish context, the Government needs to manage the transition. A much more extensive recharging infrastructure is required

But the pace of the roll-out of new electric vehicles is not just down to the engineers. There is another factor. Authorities, still smarting from the dieselgate scandal – in which German car giant Volkswagen admitted fitting devices to its cars to cheat US emissions tests – are setting tough new emissions targets. Car companies will struggle to meet the limits without dramatically increasing the number of electric vehicles in their fleets.

The swift pace of change is welcome but, in an Irish context, the Government needs to manage the transition. A much more extensive recharging infrastructure is required. It is also important to plan how people are encouraged to make the switch, introducing usage incentives as well as tax rebates, and spelling out the policy intentions for any punitive tax measures on diesel and petrol so that owners or buyers know what to expect.

After several false dawns the age of the electric car is finally within sight

For many motorists the option of buying a new electric car isn’t economically realistic and for others, living in remote areas, these vehicles simply aren’t viable despite recent improvements in the distances that can be covered between battery charging. That said, Irish motorists are taking the leap. Sales of electric cars in the first two months have almost surpassed the total for all of last year. Whatever about the hyperbole of the Geneva motor show, after several false dawns the age of the electric car is finally within sight.

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