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The 2030 electric car switchover. Will we be ready?

Sales of electric cars in Ireland are growing, but are they growing fast enough?

The electric clock is ticking. We’re getting closer and closer to the Government’s proposed deadline of 2030 for the end of petrol and diesel car sales. Ever since it was announced, we’ve been expecting that cut-off to become watered down, to allow for some petrol and/or diesel sales, but as of yet, that hasn’t happened and Ireland remains on a course to have only electric vehicles (EVs) on sale in just a decade-plus-change.

Are we ready? Are we ready from an infrastructure point of view? Are we ready, as consumers, to make that giant leap? There’s no question that we have to, at some point. Quite apart from the fact that – as almost all of us have been told since childhood – oil is running out; quite apart from the fact that we now know just how much damage has been done to our air quality and lungs by conventional, internal combustion-engined cars; quite apart from any of that, we simply have to switch, en masse, to electric power to try and help prevent or at least soften the looming catastrophe of runaway climate change. Even net of arguments over how and where the electricity to charge this flood of electric cars is produced, shutting off carbon emissions from exhaust pipes will help.

But are we ready?

Well, we’re certainly a little more switched-on to electric cars than we were this time last year. In fact, electric car sales have grown by 409 per cent in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same time last year. Don’t get too excited, overall numbers are still low, but even so some 1,400 EVs have found homes so far this year, which is higher than the number sold in all of 2018.



A big part of that acceleration in EV sales has been the introduction of the zero-rate benefit in kind tax for business users of electric cars. Paddy Comyn, head of group communications for Volkswagen Group Ireland, told The Irish Times that: “I think with the introduction of the zero per cent BIK measures, overnight we saw a change in the temperature of the market and suddenly things started happening. There remains a little confusion out there from would-be fleet buyers about the available incentives, but by and large, for now, they are the ones enquiring about EVs at the forecourts. Private buyers do make up a big chunk of the enquiries, but for now, the user-chooser remains the most significant portion of the enquiries. It is clear that this is very much a golden era for buyers, both business and private ones when it comes to incentives. They will probably never be as strong.”

VW will later this year launch what could be a game-changing car in EV terms, the new ID hatchback

Volkswagen was quick out of the traps following the introduction of the BIK changes, launching a special “Business Edition’” version of its all-electric eGolf, that packed in as much equipment as possible and still kept below the €50,000 list price cutoff point. VW will later this year launch what could be a game-changing car in EV terms, the new ID hatchback. Golf-sized, and more or less Golf-priced, it will pack a 500km one-charge range which could make it far more attractive to a far bigger group of buyers. Even so, VW is still playing a cautious game when it comes to EV sales and that 2030 deadline.

”I think we have seen many government targets for EVs come and go and it can be hard to keep track of them,” said Comyn. “50,000 sales of EVs per year by 2030 is a lofty aim, but certainly, we will have the product offerings by then. We do know that there are targets in terms of emissions, such as 95g per km of CO2 across the range by 2021, that have to be met across Europe and this means dramatically increasing our share of EVs in this market too. In the short-term diesel still very much has a place in our market – with buyers of Tiguan and larger vehicles still very much coveting this power train. We see petrol and plug-in hybrid also playing a role too. Until EVs take proper hold, it will be a suite of offerings.”

Making the Switch

Renault Ireland is a little more upbeat on the potential to get Irish buyers to switch to battery power. Jeremy Warnock, product manager at Renault Ireland said: "Renault will continue to increase opportunities for customers to change. As a result, we expect that by 2030, the biggest driver for the shift to electric vehicles will have been customer demand rather than regulation. It's cost of ownership that really seals the deal for EV buyers. Over a typical ownership of three years and 60,000km, a Zoe [Renault's compact electric hatchback] owner will save over €4,000 in comparison to petrol at current fuel prices. What's less well known is that the lack of heat and friction in any EV's powertrain results in maintenance bills which are a fraction of a petrol or diesel car."

It's not just the cars, though, it's the infrastructure. Michele Connolly, partner at KPMG, sounded a warning: "Ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars in Ireland by 2030 will be very ambitious and needs much more joined up thinking across the Government to achieve it. At a very basic level, significant developments in terms of the availability of and payment for charging infrastructure will be needed to make this a reality, as are wider considerations such as electrical grid capacity. Our electrical grid must be capable of distributing enough power to charge such a significant number of electric vehicles on our roads. Infrastructure planners looking to improve capacity and capability in one area, such as electrical vehicle usage, will need to think much more critically about how other areas must be adapted to achieve the desired outcomes."


While private charging suppliers are now starting to enter the market, it will still be down to the ESB, in large part, to ensure that we have enough juice, and enough places to juice up.

EVs will probably see lower insurance costs because technology is maturing alongside the batteries and electric motors

“ESB ecars plans to expand the existing network of 1,100 charge points, by rolling out new fast and high power electric vehicle charging stations at around 100 locations nationwide. Given that the majority of charging takes place at the home it is expected that the combination of the expanded public charging network and availability of home charging will cater for growth of hundreds of thousands of new electric vehicles,” says ESB’s Niall Hogan. “Currently drivers are used to refilling their petrol/diesel cars once or twice a week at their local service station. This approach of refilling at a public charging station will also be available for those without off street parking. The experience will also be improved through the development of high power EV charging hubs in urban areas which can offer EV drivers up to 100km of electric driving range in as little as six minutes.”

As a final aside, will electric cars be cheaper to insure? Certainly some insurers seem to regard EVs (or at least the early-adopter drivers who are buying them) as actuarially safer, but in the longer terms, EVs will probably see lower insurance costs because technology such as in-car telematics is maturing alongside the batteries and electric motors. Aidan Connaughton, head of personal insurance at AIG Ireland says : "We feel telematics is a win-win whether it's for electric cars or petrol / diesel cars as it rewards drivers for safe driving. Telematics insurance products, such as AIG BoxClever, aid us in personalising premiums, saving lives and improving road safety, especially for young drivers."

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring