Special report: The rise of the electric car in Ireland

A pilot project to promote electric cars will be launched in Cork today (Thurs).

Drive4Zero, which is being led by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, brings together local authorities, government agencies including the SEAI, employers, the Chambers of Commerce,the ESB and local banks to encourage motorists to plug-in to the advantages of electric motoring.

Electric is the right choice

Plug-in electric vehicles are good for both the environment and for your pocket, writes Simon Coveney

Special report: The rise of the electric car in Ireland

The Drive4Zero is a unique and exciting initiative that aims to promote the use of electric vehicles in Ireland using Cork as a pilot area. As a driver of an electric vehicle, I am convinced this is a great way to travel and a really attractive alternative to traditional petrol or diesel vehicles.

I am delighted to launch Drive4Zero in Cork and look forward to a national roll-out. The initiative provides a real opportunity to leverage special savings, unique product offerings, and a variety of advantages to convince more people that driving an electric car is the right choice for many reasons.

In terms of emissions in Ireland, transportation is a big problem area; not only does it make up more than 20% of our entire national emissions, it is by far the biggest growth area.

In 1990 we had 800,000 cars on the roads, 10 years later it was 1.3m, and now the figure is some 2m. Ireland’s transport is almost entirely dependent (99%) on imported fuels. Almost 98% is from oil products. These imports cost €3.5bn in 2013 — over half the total costs of all fuel imports to Ireland.

Transport was Ireland’s largest energy consuming sector in 2013, accounting for over a third of all energy use and related CO² emissions.

We need to think differently about our motoring habits. We need to reduce this dependency of imported fuel and reduce emissions produced by cars. Public transport and bicycles initiatives help, but these are limited because of how and where we live. Biofuels have a role to play, as do gas-powered vehicles and possibly hydrogen engines. However, the really exciting opportunity is electric cars.

By linking electricity generation and management of the electricity grid with powering cars, we can create a new energy formula that can massively reduce our reliance on imported oil and the associated emissions.

Electric vehicles have evolved in recent years, and are similar to mainstream offerings; they are now big or small, safe, fast and comfortable, yet powered in a different way.

Ireland is bursting with natural resources that can be exploited to produce affordable renewable electricity. We have better and more consistent wind speeds than any other country in the EU and wave energy research projects are showing real promise.

Ireland, as an island and a small country, has a competitive advantage over larger countries in terms of the capacity to transform areas of our economy quickly. We have a small and geographically isolated economy ideally suited to making a dramatic shift to electric vehicles.

Drive4Zero is not solely about doing the right thing for the environment. Electric transport is also significantly more cost effective than petrol or diesel. You are practically driving for free with plug-in electric vehicles. Don’t wait any longer, get plugged in and visit www.drive4zero.ie

Q&A: What is Drive4Zero?

Special report: The rise of the electric car in Ireland

DRIVE4ZERO is a new initiative to promote electric vehicles in Ireland. There has never been a better time to drive an electric car — the technology, the infrastructure, the incentives and the value combine to make driving an electric vehicle a compelling proposition.

To learn more about how to avail of:

- Zero fuel costs.

- Zero emissions.

- Zero parking charges.

- Zero deposit finance.

And more, visit www.drive4zero.ie.

Who is behind the Drive4Zero initiative?

A number of people, organisations, companies and groups have come together to create a great offering for Drive4Zero.

From the car manufacturers to the banks, from local authorities and government agencies including the SEIA, from employers, the Chambers of Commerce, Energy Cork, MaREI and Q-Park all working together to promote electric motoring.

The initiative is being led by Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food Simon Coveney who became involved in the electric car conversation a number of years ago through a cabinet document he wrote entitled “Drive for Zero”.

Convinced that electric vehicles provided a great alternative to petrol and diesel-fueled vehicles, in terms of energy management and environmental benefits, Mr Coveney worked on the collaborative approach, which essentially formed the Drive4Zero campaign.

The initiative will launch in Cork today as a pilot programme and it is hoped that Drive4Zero will be extended in 2015.

Why Drive4Zero?

From the major environmental benefits, to the lifestyle and convenience of charging your ecar at work or at home there are many benefits with electric cars. There is a clear cost benefit in driving an electric car, and the price of electricity is much cheaper than petrol or diesel, as well as being a renewable fuel.

How does it work?

The DRIVE4ZERO initiative encourages companies and individuals to consider the electric vehicles proposition as a cost effective alternative to petrol or diesel cars.

The campaign promises zero emissions, zero parking costs due to free electric vehicle parking for the campaign in negotiated sites and also zero fuel costs as companies signing up to Drive4Zero will pay for the charging of vehicles onsite so there are zero costs to individuals.

There are also Drive4Zero incentives from the ESB which will waive the charge points’ costs (with only installation costs to be covered by company) and the SEIA will also provide a significant financial contribution of €5k to the car buyer on purchase of an electric vehicle through the Drive4Zero campaign. Talk to your employer about the Drive4Zero campaign, and log onto www.drive4zero.ie to get plugged into great savings today.

Is Drive4Zero only for companies?

Drive4Zero targets companies so that groups of people can make the switch to electric cars together and avail of major cost savings, and also impact significantly on the environment through less emissions.

A large number of companies in Cork have already signed up to the Drive4Zero campaign, which means that they will install the ESB charge points on site and pay the cost of charging for employees.

This becomes a key part of their corporate social and environmental responsibility strategy.

And it provides for a great place to work, when the company is open to the opportunities presented by Drive4Zero for the company and the employees.

We are inviting companies to sign up to Drive4Zero, but we also want individuals to promote Drive4Zero in companies, small or large, so more people ultimately drive electric cars.

Can individuals benefit from Drive4Zero?

Individuals can experience the many benefits of Drive4Zero, from the purchase grant provided by SEAI, to free parking provided in Q-Parks and park and ride facilities in Cork, with the programme rolling out countrywide next year.

What do I next?

Buying an electric car is like buying a normal car. Dealerships have electric cars for sale like any other petrol or diesel car. A variety of electric cars are on the market which will deliver high levels of performance, comfort and economy.

To cater for everyone’s taste, there is something to suit everybody, ranging from a compact city car, to a mid-sized family hatchback or a family saloon to a fast sports car. Visit www.drive4zero.ie to see the DRIVE4Zero partner options

Who do I contact if I have further questions?

See www.drive4zero.ie

Electric cars: What you need to know

Special report: The rise of the electric car in Ireland

What are the benefits?

- Substantially lower running costs. Excellent driving performance

- Lowest motor tax band/5000 government grant / no VRT.

- Free home charge point for the first 2,000 first-time registered electric vehicles in Ireland who qualify for the SEAI Grant.

- Lifestyle convenience of charging your electric car at home overnight.

- Access to a nationwide network of charge points.

- Major environmental benefits.

Where can I charge my electric car?

There are three charging options: home charging, public charging or fast charging. The first 2,000 purchasers of a newly registered electric car who qualify for the SEAI Grant will get a free home charge point so that electric cars can be charged from your domestic electricity supply. There will be 1,500 public charge points available on-streets, shopping centres, carparks and certain hotels. Every town with 1,500 inhabitants or more will have a charge point. Fast charge points will be located along main inter-urban routes at service stations and roadside cafés to cater for longer journeys.

Where is the next closest charge point?

Most will charge cars at home at night at the cheaper rate of electricity. Public charging and fast charging points are available out and about.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

There are three types of charging options:

- Home charging — 6 to 8 hours*.

- Public charging — 2 to 6 hours*.

- Fast charging takes 25 minutes* for an 80% charge.

*Due to different types and battery sizes of electric cars, these times may vary.

How much does it cost to charge electric cars?

A full charge at home will cost €2 to €3 when using cheaper night rate electricity. An electric car costs 1c to 2c per km against 10c to 12c per km for a regular car.

You can check the comparative cost calculator to see how much you’ll save.

What’s the range of an electric car?

The range differs for each electric car. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV has a range of 150km, the Nissan LEAF has a range of 199km but the Tesla Model S has a range of 420km.

Does an electric car cost less than a conventional car?

As they are new, electric cars have a higher purchase price. However, several factors push the costs down. These include a zero rate of VRT relief of up to €5,000, purchase grant for up to €5,000, lower road tax, reduced maintenance costs (due to fewer moving parts), plus dramatically lower fuel costs. For some models the car is bought and the battery leased.

What is the tax?

Tax for electric cars is in the lowest tax bracket — €120. This is the rate for all such vehicles. 

How fast can the cars go?

They are capable of regular car speed, acceleration and power.

Electric supercars such as the Tesla can reach 0km to 60km in 3.7 seconds and top speeds of 200km/h. Electric cars such as the Nissan LEAF reach 0km to 60km in 10 seconds and can drive up to 140km/h.

How do I pay for the electricity?

When you charge your electric car at home, the additional electricity costs will be added to your electricity supply bill. For publicly accessible charge points an online account is being developed which will enable electric car drivers to access public charge points. Your charge point access card will allow you to log into your account, choose your electricity supplier and prepay for your electricity.

Can I plug my car into my regular house socket or can I use an extension cable?

No, you cannot plug your car into a regular house or outdoor socket or use extension cables as this may be dangerous.

Can I disconnect my cable even though the car is not fully charged?

Yes, you can disconnect your car at any time.

Are there environmental benefits?

Electric cars offer a chance to reduce the carbon output of the transport sector, as they emit zero-exhaust pipe emissions.

What are the emission levels against a regular car?

As more of our electricity is generated from renewable energy the level of emissions associated with electric motoring will approach zero.

With the current mix of fuels used to generate electricity in Ireland emissions will on average be less than half of those of a regular internal combustion engine (70gCO2/km for an electric car versus 150gCO2/km for a conventional car).

How can companies benefit from electric cars?

The move to e-mobility naturally includes commercial fleets.

Current emissions of CO2 in the transport sector account for about 13 million tonnes annually.

A huge proportion of this is associated with the fleet of commercial vehicles on our roads: 400,000.

Any company that runs commercial vehicles stands to gain on several levels by adopting an e-fleet strategy.

Benefits include: accelerated capital allowance scheme permitting writeoff of capital investment within one year; government incentive of up to €5,000 grant per vehicle and zero VRT relief of up to €5,000 ; and much lower running and maintenance costs.

Cork bids to become Europe’s green capital

Special report: The rise of the electric car in Ireland

Kate Murphy, MaREI UCC, with Sharon Corcoran, Cork County Council, Liam Ring, ESB and Energy Cork, Michael O'Brien, Cork City Council, Rodger O'Connor, Bord Gais Networks, and Michael Quirke, Energy Cork, members of the team behind Cork's bid to become European Green Capital. Picture: Denis Scannell

The scale of the challenge is huge, but the benefits of winning the title are impressive, says Eoin English

Cork is pulling on the green jersey as part of a hugely ambitious bid to become the ‘green capital’ of Europe.

Just over a decade since it was named European Capital of Culture, the city has prepared a comp-rehensive application which it hopes will show how it is leading the way in environmentally-friendly urban living in the hope Cork will be crowned the 2017 European Green Capital.

Cork City Council, which is coordinating the application, is being supported by Cork County Council, Bord Gáis Networks, ESB Networks and Energy Cork, an industry-driven cluster which is working to strengthen enterprise and employment within the energy sector in the Cork region.

Michael O’Brien, a senior engineer with Cork City Council, has played a key role in preparing the bid.

“Cork City Council has been very ambitious in applying for the European Green Capital award for 2017,” he said. “It’s an extremely competitive application process with many of the most sustainable cities in Europe applying.

“It’s a testament to the hard work of many people over recent decades in the area of environmental sustainability in the city that we are in a position to make a credible application.

“Initiatives such as Drive4Zero give a further boost to the city’s environmental credentials.

“Regardless of the outcome, the application will form an excellent benchmark for monitoring future progress. Cork City Council are delighted that Cork County Council, Bord Gáis Networks, ESB Networks, and Energy Cork have come on board to support our application.”

The city has prepared detailed reports on each of the 12 specific environmental indicator areas in which it will be judged, including climate change — mitigation and adaptation, green urban areas incorporating sustainable land use, quality of the acoustic environment, water management, eco innovation and sustainable employment, local transport, nature and biodiversity and energy performance.

Among the flagship projects its application has highlighted are:

- The multi-million conversion of the former Kinsale Road landfill to a public park.

- The use of gas at the former dump to generate electricity.

- The huge environmental strides by UCC which was became one of the world’s first universities to be named a Green Campus and where recycling rates have increased from 21% in 2007 to 75% in 2013, with a plan in place for this figure to exceed 90% in the coming years.

- The cooperation between the public and private sector as demonstrated by the Energy Cork cluster.

- The testing by Bus Éireann in Cork of CNG fuel

- The development of the Lifetime Lab for eco-education.

- Installation of bus and bike lanes in recent years.

The EGC award recognises and rewards local efforts to improve the environment, the economy and the quality of life in cities. It is awarded each year to a city, not necessarily a capital, which is leading the way in environmentally friendly urban living and which can inspire other cities.

It grew out of an initiative taken in 2006 by 15 European cities — Tallinn, Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius, Berlin, Warsaw, Madrid, Ljubljana, Prague, Vienna, Kiel, Kotka, Dartford, Tartu, and Glasgow — before it was formally launched by the European Commission in 2008.

The message of the award scheme is that Europeans have a right to live in healthy urban areas, and that cities should strive to improve the quality of life of their citizens and reduce their impact on the global environment.

Previous winners include Stockholm in 2010, Hamburg in 2011, Vitoria-Gastiez in 2012, Nantes in 2013, and Copenhagen in 2014.

Bristol will hold the title next 2015 before it moves to Ljubljana in 2016.

The scale of the challenge facing Cork is huge, considering the environmental record and achievements of previous winners.

But the benefits of winning the EGC title are impressive, as demonstrated in Vitoria-Gastiez, the capital of the Basque country and a city of comparable size to Cork.

In a report after its year as EGC, it was shown to have generated some €15m worth of national and international media coverage, and boosted tourist numbers by 3% in 2012. Over 45 companies sponsored the ‘green year’ with 704 stepping up their commitment to a ‘Green Deal’ — local commitment to environmental sustainability. An estimated 150,000 new trees were planted in a green belt, some 10.5km of new bike lanes were installed, and 45 new streets got traffic calming measures.

Cork’s application will be assessed by a team of international experts over the coming months. They will shortlist the applicant cities early next year to go forward for final judging, with the 2017 EGC due to be named next June.

Cusack driving change on electric cars

The former goalkeeper is trying to convince commuters to get behind e cars, says Peter O’Dwyer

Special report: The rise of the electric car in Ireland

Donal Óg Cusack, brand ambassador, Drive4Zero, with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney. Picture: Denis Minihane.

In sport, myths often go unchallenged and, at times, are even encouraged as part of the drama and intrigue of the game but for one of the country’s most recognisable sportspeople there are plenty that need dispelling.

Former Cork hurling goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack is at the forefront of the Drive4Zero electric car initiative that he hopes will put to rest some of the assumptions surrounding e-cars and encourage Cork comm-uters to give them a go.

The three-month campaign brings together stakeholders including the Government, ESB, Q-Park carparks, UCC, car manufacturers and many of Cork’s biggest employers.

Cusack believes the initiative, spearheaded by Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, will boost the e-car movement.

“What the minister’s trying to do here makes sense... we all know that electric vehicles are the future because it’s an obvious thing: the resources are finite in terms of fossil fuels but what he’s trying to do is give a shock to the system and give incentives to encourage people to buy electric cars. Once people actually start driving these they will dispel a lot of the myths that exist about that technology,” he said.

Having tried his hand behind the wheel of an electric model again recently, he is optimistic the already quickening pace of adoption, which has seen 215 new vehicles registered in the first eight months of the year, is set to continue.

The models, he warns, won’t meet everyone’s needs but are ideal for commuting to and from work with the chance to “fill the tank” for free an added bonus.

While the personal cost savings attributed to plugging into the e-car trend are well recognised, the benefits of Drive4Zero will stretch much further, the Cloyne native insists.

“I believe we have a responsibility as industrialists to be good citizens and protect the environment but there’s also the cost point of view — the more we abuse our natural resources then manufacturing costs go up.”

Having worked in industry for 15 years, with a particular focus on sustainable energy, the drive for green alternative is something Cusack has a passion for — one of the key reasons for him getting on board.

“I was delighted to be part of it because I think we’ve got a responsibility to think about the environment and industry has a responsibility to be good citizens and protect our natural resources. I also think it’s a great thing for Cork to be taking the lead on it and I’m just a small part of it but I’m very happy to be an ambassador for it.”

Buzzword is ‘zero’ as ecars motoring on

Peter O’Dwyer

Special report: The rise of the electric car in Ireland

The delivery of the Renault ZOE EV car by Renault Ireland to the Marine Renewable Energy Ireland, UCC.

Zero emissions, zero parking costs and zero fuel costs — that is the promise from a variety of partners helping to bring the Drive4Zero initiative to fruition.

Unsurprisingly, the ESB is one of the organisations at the heart of the campaign with 70 charge points dotted around Cork.

According to ESB ecars infrastructure manager Donal Herraghty, motorists have no cause for concern that they’ll be stranded far from a charge point and with the ecar connect app, finding the nearest charger should be a doddle for a new tech-savvy band of motorists.

Chargers will be installed in every participating business providing a full charge for free while, on their travels, motorists will have seven fast charge points to choose from, offering a top-up that should take 25 minutes.

Adding an extra incentive to drivers is the offer of free parking in each of Q-Park’s four Cork carparks — each of which will have two chargers installed.

Like many of the other stakeholders, Q-Park chief executive Ray Peers sees the initiative as a stepping stone. “Electric cars are something for the future, we want to be in the frontline to provide facilities to service the requirements of charging and parking,” he said.

For another of the initiative’s partners, Drive4Zero is a continuation of a long-standing commitment to renewable energy and green transport.

Green energy is UCC-based research cluster, Marine Renewable Energy Ireland's (MaREI) bread and butter and they were only too happy to get on board with the campaign, according to the centre’s manager, Dr Gillian Bruton.

“Drive4Zero has been working closely with MaREI and UCC staff members to deliver this exciting initiative. MaREI has applied previous experience from its own pilot ecar program to advise the planning process, in line with our aim of delivering tailored technological solutions to companies through our industry-led research program,” she said.

Relocating from the main UCC campus in Cork City to the college’s Beaufort Building in Ringaskiddy and the subsequent need to ferry staff and students to and from both bases led (MaREI) to the bright idea of establishing their own ecar initiative that is now helping make Drive4Zero a success.

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