Almost half of all motorists who buy a car over the next decade will have to opt for electric versions if the targets in the climate action plan are to be met.
The plan aims to have close to one million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2030 but with car sales running at about 230,000 a year for both new and second hand models, that means persuading one in every two buyers to convert to electric.
“It’s a very challenging target,” said Brian Cooke, director general of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry.
“When you think that the National Development Plan [published last year] had a target of 500,000 by 2030, doubling that figure is hugely ambitious.”
There are currently about 7,000 electric vehicles in Ireland and that’s despite generous incentives, including a purchase grant of €4,000-€5,000, a grant towards home charger installation, VRT relief, annual motor tax of €120 a year, a 50% discount on toll fees, and exemption from benefit-in-kind taxation.
“The climate action plan sees 2024 as a big turning point in terms of the price of electric cars falling,” said Mr Cooke.
“The industry is telling us it will be 2025 so it’s much the same, but price changes will be important because electric drivers are far more likely to buy new. With electric, each new model is a big improvement on the previous one so people want to buy new if they can.
The incentives are due to run out in 2021 but they should stay at least until 2024. The plan suggests replacing the grant with a scrappage scheme but I don’t think that would benefit very many people.
Guillaume Seguin of the Irish Electric Vehicle Owners Association said the target is optimistic. “But it can be realistic too,” he said.
“First of all, the manufacturers are investing a lot in this so there’s much more choice. The choice of cars is doubling every year. And the incentives are good if they continue.
“The main issue we have is infrastructure. The charging network has not increased in the last few years and that needs to happen quite quickly. Already we are finding queues at charging points and that does not encourage more people to change to electric.”
There are just 1,200 public charging points on the island, of which 90 are fast chargers. The ESB is planning a €20m investment that will create 50 hubs of superfast chargers along motorways and national routes so a six-minute stopover will top up range by about 100km.
There will also need to be many more local charging hubs along smaller roads and in cities, towns, suburbs, and villages.
Free charging will also be coming to an end but Mr Seguin said the association welcomes that. “Because it is free, there is abuse of the infrastructure. Sometimes we find cars connected all day,” he said.
“A few private investors have installed charging points and they are just a little less expensive than diesel or petrol but I think competition will keep the prices good. Also, the majority of people will charge at home most of the time and pay the domestic electricity price which is much less so I think it’s OK to pay something more for the convenience of a superfast charge on a long journey.”
The ESB said it will make an announcement about the introduction of prices for charging later this year.