This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
WITH CLIMATE CHANGE still one of the greatest challenges facing our generation, perhaps now is the time for Ireland to really move forward with plans to introduce battery-powered electric vehicles into our everyday lives. That is the view, at least, of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security. The committee has argued that the Government’s current plans for electric vehicles in particular are simply not ambitious enough.
Currently, Ireland’s per capita emissions of greenhouse gas are the fifth highest in the world, with the transport sector accounting for 14.4 million tonnes of our emissions. To combat this, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan has pledged to make ten per cent of Irish cars electric by 2020 which, based on current numbers, would be amount to approximately 230,000 Electric Vehicles (EVs) on our roads. However, in its recent report – ‘Drive for Zero: Electric Vehicles are a Winning Proposition’ – the Joint Committee insists that these targets should be far greater.
A Need for More
most attention are those with electric vehicles on them. Car manufacturers are starting to shift towards electric transport in a major way and Ireland needs to be the destination of choice for these companies,” he insists.
The Time for Change
Some will doubtless argue that, given the current economic conditions, building a whole new transport infrastructure is just not feasible. However, Coveney argues that there has never been a better time to make the change. “For me, the time for building the really ambitious infrastructure is now when we’re in recession and when people are out of work because the car industry needs a boost and we need to give people a reason to buy cars again.” Perhaps the most difficult part of implementing the changeover to EVs will lie in convincing consumers that they are getting value for their money. At the moment, the initial cost of EVs tends to be higher than that of traditional vehicle costs, largely due to the high cost of batteries. This can be solved, says the Joint Committee, by improving the economies of scale for battery production in Ireland, allowing for the mass production of batteries. Until this mass production is achieved consumer purchases of EVs will remain low and significant improvements in our carbon emissions will not be seen. Despite the high price of batteries, though, the cost of running an EV is still significantly cheaper than the cost of running a petrol or diesel fuelled car. At the moment, the average family will spend €149 on fuel every month, or €1,788 per year. The cost of running an EV, on the other hand, will be just €204 on electricity costs, representing a saving of €1,595 per annum. It is this, says Simon Coveney, which makes the switch to EVs inevitable. Despite calls for the Government to quicken the implementation of EVs in Ireland, there are signs that it too recognises the benefits of converting the national transport fleet to electricity. Minister Eamon Ryan has already stated that he wants Ireland to become a centre for electric vehicles and insists that the country is “open for business”. This statement
The Irish Government has been urged to show more ambition in their plans to introduce Electric Vehicles (EVs) to the masses, writes David Clarke.
tonnes of carbon a year. Electric cars will be the norm in the developed world at some stage in the future,” he notes. “Do we want to let other countries get on with it first so we can copy it or do we want to be the ones creating and shaping the technology?”
At the moment the average family will spend €1,788 on fuel per year. The cost of running an EV, on the other hand, will be just €204.
By spearheading the move towards this new technology, not only will Ireland significantly reduce its carbon emissions but, according to the report, will also herald “the start of an exciting new industry employing tens of thousands of highly skilled workers”. Indeed, if the Government is serious about persuading the public to make the switch from their current vehicles to EVs, then establishing an accessible charging infrastructure for batteries is vital. Simon Coveney admits that this will be a challenge, but one that will bring great rewards. “This is a construction project that’s bigger than the M50. You’re talking about putting charging points in every village and town and city in Ireland, in every multi-story car park, outside every shopping centre, linking up a charging capacity with every home and every business in the country.” The building of this infrastructure, of course, will have a positive effect, re-introducing many to the country’s workforce. “It can employ project managers, architects, engineers and construction workers. From that point of view it’s a huge physical job,” he says. But if Ireland is to avail of these opportunities, adds Coveney, it is clear that we must act quickly. “If you look at big auto shows in France and Germany, the stalls that are attracting the
is backed up by new policy initiatives: the Government has already introduced an incentive for businesses to buy EVs by allowing them to write off 100 per cent of their purchase cost against tax under the Accelerated Capital Allowance Scheme. In addition, the Government will fund a €1 million project through Sustainable Energy Ireland to research, develop and demonstrate the vehicles nationally. They will also publish a ‘Buyer’s Guide’ and ‘Cost of Ownership Calculator’ to assist people purchasing EVs, while the establishment of a National Task Force will look at infrastructure options for the national roll-out of EVs. The Government has recently signed non-exclusive Memoranda of Understanding with the ESB and Renault-Nissan as they aim to meet its target of 230,000 EVs on the road by 2020. These Memoranda will guarantee that the first major consignment of EVs will be in Ireland by 2011. The ESB will allow open access to other electricity suppliers and is currently in discussions with 14 different car manufacturers about bringing EV fleets to Ireland. It is also exploring the option of introducing a pilot scheme in one part of the country, where 1,500 charging points will be installed in an order to test the infrastructure. The Joint Committee report insists that this isn’t enough, and points to more ambitious projects in Denmark and Israel where plans have been drawn up to replace all petrol and diesel powered vehicles by 2020. Moreover, effectively confining the essential infrastructure for EVs to one specific area will almost certainly guarantee the pilot’s failure, as drivers in the area chosen will still need to use conventional cars to travel any long distance.
Effectively confining the essential infrastructure for EVs to one specific area will almost certainly guarantee the pilot’s failure, as drivers in the area chosen will still need to use conventional cars to travel any long distance.
The report argues for a 50 per cent increase on the Government’s 2020 EV target and goals a long the way. In the short-term, it says, Ireland should have 100,000 EVs on the road by 2016. By 2020, 15 percent of Irish cars should be electric, with no cars powered by fossil fuels being offered for sale. Ultimately, this will lead to every private car in the country being an EV by 2030. Simon Coveney, the report’s Rapporteur, is adamant that Ireland can not afford to wait for other countries to start their EV rollouts. “Transportation is the big problem area in terms of emissions in Ireland. Not only does it make up more than 20 per cent of our entire national emissions, it is by far the biggest growth area,” explains Coveney, who is also Fine Gael’s energy spokesman. “The change to Electric Vehicles could potentially be the biggest carbon reduction project that Ireland will ever embark on. You’re talking about getting rid of eight million
Fine Gael energy spokesman Simon Coveney.
It's electric! Mitsubishi's new electric car.
Senan McGrath, Sustainability Manager, ESB.
However, Senan McGrath, the Sustainabilty Manager at ESB Networks, is adamant that current Government targets are sensible. “Even getting to a stage where ten per cent of cars are electric is ambitious,” says McGrath. “Unless the Government were to offer far more incentives then this target is the right one. And let’s not forget that there is no ceiling; we won’t stop when we get to ten per cent. We will do our best to have more EVs on Irish roads than our current target sets out. But if we had a higher target, like the 15 per cent that’s been suggested, we wouldn’t be doing anything differently.”
up access to the electricity grid but I don’t see why they should have a monopoly on the charging infrastructure just because they’re a state owned company. We should be getting value for money here. Maybe the ESB will get the tender, but it should be open. Companies like Better Place should be allowed to offer solutions.”
If Ireland is committed to reducing its carbon emissions, we must look in particular at the transport sector where a solution is on hand in the form of EVs. The current 10 per cent target will only have a modest impact on our greenhouse gas emissions and, by not fully getting behind the project right now, Ireland could well be missing out on an excellent opportunity to establish itself as a leader in EV development. “This shouldn’t be seen as a fluffy green project. It should be seen as a national project that is going to transform the country and the way in which we move around. Electric Vehicles are much cheaper, much cleaner and it’s going to be much more intelligent in terms of the technology we use,” says Coveney, adding that failure to act now will see Ireland left behind. “If we continue down the route we’re going, in five years time we’ll have emitted another 20 or 30 thousand tonnes of carbon footprint into the atmosphere and we’ll be asking how we’re going to upgrade from pilot projects. The opportunity of being the first mover will have passed us by.” k
Caution to the Wind
There is a fear, however, that this cautious attitude will see Ireland left behind as other countries embrace the electric car revolution. “The way to do this is not to have a pilot project in some small area because people will never buy into that. People have to really buy into this as a national project and that’s the big difference I have with the Government,” asserts Simon Coveney, adding that deals such as that made with RenaultNissan need to be negotiated with other car manufacturers. Coveney adds that this will ensure that, once the infrastructure for EVs is built, there is a steady flow of vehicles coming into the country. He has also called for the research into the building of infrastructure to be open to the private sector and not just the ESB. “We should be inviting Expressions of Interest to get the best solutions. The ESB will be involved as they have to open
INCENTIVES TO PROMOTE UPTAKE OF EVs
Norway Denmark Sweden Netherlands Belgium Switzerland Germany France Greece Italy Spain Israel Electric cars exempt from car registration tax. For a B class car the registration tax is around €7,500. VAT (25%) does not apply to electric cars. Electric cars are not subject to the annual car tax of €345. EVs do not have to pay road tolls in Oslo. EVs qualify for free parking which can provide annual savings of around €2,000-€4,000. EVs are permitted to use bus lanes. Low or zero carbon emission vehicles get a subsidy of 10,000 SEK (€2,500). Electric cars in the Netherlands are exempted from car registration tax. Belgian vehicles which emit less than 105g CO2/km will have a €4,100 reduction in registration tax. Individual cantons provide their own EV incentives. Germany is currently considering inner circle parking and congestion charge incentives for EVs similar to those in London. A French initiative named Eco-pastille, which began on January 1st 2008, sees that people who buy electric cars receive €5,000 back. Free parking spaces for EVs (equipped with charging apparatus) are also being reviewed. No road tax or car registration fees for electric cars. Electric cars are also free to drive in Athens when parts of it are restricted to other vehicles to reduce traffic congestion. There is also free charging on the street of some cities. Certain cities in Italy have restricted driving within the city to EVs only. Some cities also allow free parking and charging for EVs. For an electric car bought in Spain €6,000 or 15 per cent of the price of the vehicle will be returned to the customer. The Israeli government is providing tax incentives to help Project Better Place achieve its goals. It taxes petrol cars at 72% while electric cars are only taxed at 10 per cent.
Source: Drive for Zero, Electric Vehicles are a Winning Proposition, April 2009.
BI_Autumn09_1-58.indd 26-27 18/09/2009 12:38:12
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.