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What will Irish roads look like in 2030?

Electric power is here, and growing, but it may not be the be-all and end-all

The latest survey of Irish-driver attitudes by website Carzone found that 15 per cent of buyers are still holding back from buying an electric car because they worry there are not enough charging points. Photograph: iStock

The latest survey of Irish-driver attitudes by website Carzone found that 15 per cent of buyers are still holding back from buying an electric car because they worry there are not enough charging points. Photograph: iStock

 

In purely physical terms, the road network in Ireland probably won’t look too much different by 2030, although there will certainly be a few new roads. The long-gestating M20 Cork to Limerick road should – with a following wind – be finished by then, at a cost of anything up to €1 billion. Other big spending roads projects include the Galway ring road, and the Limerick to Adare to Foynes road. While there will be many to criticise the spending on roads, as opposed to public transport, the fact is that Ireland is still only up-scaling itself to the level of other European economies when it comes to infrastructure, so we’ve a way to go yet in the road-building department.

Those roads should have, or at least ought to have, many more electric car charging points. According to the EU’s own figures, there are currently 199,250 public charging points across the bloc. However, most of those are hogged by only a few countries. Fully 26 per cent of the chargers are to be found in The Netherlands. Only 25,000 out of all of those public charging points are “fast chargers” with a charging speed of more than 22kW.

Crucial

Across the island of Ireland, there are 1,100 charging points owned and operated by the ESB under its ecars programme, alongside other operators such as IONITY (a group funded by car makers including Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, and Hyundai), EasyGo, and Tesla. Growing the network is seen as crucial to encouraging people to move to electric power for their cars – according to the latest survey of Irish-driver attitudes by website Carzone, 15 per cent of buyers are still holding back from buying an electric car because they worry there are not enough charging points.

Nonetheless, the SEAI is also confident that the target of ending internal combustion engine sales by 2030, and turning Ireland’s new-car market into an all-electric one, can be achieved by then. Many have questioned the numbers involved, especially the Government’s stated intention to have more than 900,000 electric cars on the road by then, but electric sales are growing fast and electrification is catching on with Irish buyers. If one adds in the sales of hybrids, and plugin-hybrids, the total figure for cars with some level of electric power comes to 27 per cent, with the bulk of that (19 per cent) taken by hybrids which cannot be plugged-in to charge up.

Vehicle replacement is the only way we can move to a greener car fleet

Which at least shows that some movement is being achieved, but is it fast enough? If the Government is serious about banning the sales of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030 – a move that the SEAI actually refers to as “mooted” rather than absolutely confirmed, and that it’s focusing more on a mid-decade goal of 175,000 EVs on the road – many, many more of us are going to have to be convinced to switch not merely to hybrid nor plugin-hybrid cars, but to fully electric models.

According to Richard Molloy from Audi Ireland: “Ireland has ambitious climate action targets to hit by 2030. Transport plays an important role in meeting these overall targets. If we are to achieve anywhere near the ambitious targets for electric vehicles on the road by 2030, we need to see growth in the overall new car market. Vehicle replacement is the only way we can move to a greener car fleet. Customers need clarity and certainty of the incentives to move to cleaner technology to encourage fleet renewal. Customers also need to see the investment commitment into improving the national charging network. The transition to a completely electric car fleet is incremental. The purchase of clean petrol and diesel cars, PHEVs and electric cars combined will all have a part of play in the transition to a carbon neutral fleet between now and 2030.”

Dramatic uptick

Will all of those cars that we will buy be SUVs? Certainly, it might seem that way, given the dramatic uptick in sales of such cars in the last ten years, but Renault Ireland’s Jeremy Warnock says it’s not as simple as the SUV label might make it seem.

We’ll probably see more hatchbacks adopting some of the styling cues and other characteristics of SUV

“We’ll have to see,” he says. “There’s no doubt that the move to SUVs in the last decade has been led by customer preferences. High seating positions, go-anywhere looks and generous interior and luggage space repeatedly crop up as the reasons behind SUV purchases. So the industry is likely to continue offering these characteristics to customers. However, efficiency is becoming more important, so we should expect to see some changes in how it’s done, with the SUVs of 2030 offering lower drag coefficients, frontal areas and vehicle weights. We’ll probably see more hatchbacks adopting some of the styling cues and other characteristics of SUVs. In reality this kind of blurring of boundaries has been happening for some time already, with many of today’s SUVs offering minimal off-road capability but the same level of versatility as the MPVs that were so popular 10 years ago.”

Serious proposal

Finally, by 2030, will we be sleeping in our cars? It’s actually a serious proposal made by Volvo with its 360c electric concept car. The idea behind the 360c is that, instead of getting up early for a flight or a cross-continent train journey, you could instead leave the night before in your fully-autonomous 360c, which would whisk you – while you snooze – to your far-flung destination, silently stopping for a quick charge of its batteries on the way. Far fetched? Maybe not. The 360c explores what becomes possible when we remove the human driver and is a glimpse at how autonomous drive technology will change the world as we know it.