A range of new measures announced by the Government to accelerate a mass consumer switch to electric vehicles (EV) fails to address the fundamental blockage – affordability.
That is according to a leading EV expert, who said that while easing home charger conditions and providing apartment charging grants were welcome, the upfront cost of such vehicles would remain the biggest barrier.
At the launch of the new Zero Emission Vehicles Ireland office, Transport and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan highlighted four new initiatives.
They include an apartment charging grant for homes without driveways – such as apartments and duplexes – and an extension of the home charger grant to people who do not already own an EV.
Mr Ryan said he is looking at introducing a number of different grants which could incentivise a greater use of EVs through things like car sharing and the wider installation of chargers.
He pointed to supports already in place which has helped the taxi industry move to electric.
“There will continue to be really significant support, €80m this year is not small, but we do need to target it, we do need to make sure that there’s a just transition approach here.
“And that’s the way we’ll do it, to keep evolving and changing it because this is changing as we speak, the technology, the cars, the vans are starting to change. We need to get those really moving to electric as well.” Mr Ryan said.
He said the cost of eclectic cars will decrease as more manufactures start producing them.
“Every single manufacturer is now switching to electric; they are better cars. And yes, we expect the price to come down when they start to do more bigger mass production that you bring the cost down, but also the fuel cost is a fraction, the maintenance cost is a fraction. So already we’re very close to the point where the lifetime cost of an electric vehicle is cheaper than the diesel or petrol equivalents. It saves people money. We need to go further.”
The Department of Transport said a new trial to promote the electrification of the commercial fleet would allow businesses to test an EV free of charge for at least three months, while sports clubs across the country will be given funding to install a network of publicly accessible chargers for members and visitors.
The Government has a vision of one million EVs on the road by 2030, but even though there have been rapid sales pickups in the past year, experts say it is not nearly fast enough to reach the ambitious target.
Editor of IrishEVs.com, Tom Spencer, said most people cannot afford to buy an EV in the first place, especially during a cost-of-living crisis.
“While the announcement of more grants for charging infrastructure is welcome – especially for people who live in apartments – the Government is still failing to address the main stumbling block for Irish drivers who want to make the switch to clean electric vehicles during a cost-of-living crisis.
“We urgently need grants that lower the purchase cost, and to lower the cost for second-hand EV imports from the UK to develop an affordable used electric car market. We will not hit our emissions targets without this.”
Irish drivers had flocked to Britain in the years before Brexit, importing tens of thousands of used cars annually because of huge savings compared to what they would pay at home. Drivers reported saving up to €10,000 on high-end models like BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, and Audi, even after hefty vehicle registration tax (VRT) was paid.
However, Brexit put paid to the market, which has dwindled significantly since the bilateral trade deal between the UK and the EU began in January 2021. Since January 2021, there are extra charges that have to be paid on UK imports that would considerably slice into any savings for a would-be Irish motorist.