Education needed if Irish drivers are to embrace electric cars, says expert

Education needed if Irish drivers are to embrace electric cars, says expert

Ieland lags far behind continental counterparts in electric vehicle uptake. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Education around chargers, speed, batteries, and cost will be key if Irish drivers are to come around to the prospect of driving electric vehicles (EVs) in the future, according to an advocacy body.

The Irish Electric Vehicle Owners Association (IEVOA) said lingering misunderstandings about EVs needed to be rectified if the country's motorists were to join their EU counterparts in embracing the electric revolution.

Cork-based Guillaume Séguin of the IEVOA said: "Education is indeed key — there is a misconception of the range or infrastructure needed, and many could do with an EV but just don't think they can."

That education should also focus on chargers, charging speed and cost, differences between vehicles, and differing electrical currents, he said. 

"There are a lot of variables, it is not simple today, and to be honest, the industry will have to make efforts, as we can't expect the average driver to master this," he said. "If you understand most of the EV ecosystem, then it does makes sense to own an EV for the vast majority.

"Of course we need to adapt and change — a bit — our ways to use our cars. It doesn't have to be negative."

It comes as a report from global consumer insight data firm Statista showed Ireland lagged behind most of its EU neighbours when it came to the highest share of EVs in sales last year, but ahead of global powers like the US and China.

Ireland's share of plug-in EVs in new passenger car sales in 2020 was 7.4%, which included hybrids and light vehicles, and excluded commercial vehicles, Statista said.

The percentage was ahead of China on 6.2% and the US on a mere 2.3%.

However, Ireland lags far behind the global leader of EV sales, Norway. The Scandinavian country topped the charts at almost 75%, followed by its Nordic counterparts Iceland and Sweden, with plug-in electric vehicles accounting for 45% and 32% respectively in 2020, Statista said.

Data journalist with Statista, Felix Richter, cautioned that various policies have incentivised electric vehicle uptake in Norway, but that they might not translate well to other countries.

"While Norway’s policy measures (eg tax exemptions, toll exemptions, and other incentives) did prove highly effective in promoting electric cars, the Norwegian model cannot be easily transferred to other countries," he wrote on a World Economic Forum report.

"First and foremost, the country imposes hefty vehicle import duties and car registration taxes, making cars significantly more expensive than, say, in the US. By waiving these duties for electric vehicles, Norway is effectively subsidising EV purchases at a level that a larger country such as the US couldn’t afford. 

"Secondly, Norway is a very wealthy country (ironically thanks to its oil reserves) with a high level of income." 

Statista data showed that EVs accounted for 4.2% of Irish light vehicle sales in 2020, up from 2.5% the year previously.

Transport minister Eamon Ryan has previously conceded that Ireland is far behind where it should be when it comes to charging infrastructure for EVs.

He told an Institute of International and European Affairs event on Irish energy policy and the transition to net-zero emissions in December that "we will have act fast, because these cars are coming at scale, and will need powering".

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