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How well is Ireland set up for electric cars?

Prices, charging points and government grants: TheJournal.ie looks into electric vehicle ownership in Ireland today.

A Nissan Leaf charging in Portland, Oregon.
A Nissan Leaf charging in Portland, Oregon.
Image: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer/PA

THE IRISH GOVERNMENT has committed to getting enough electric passenger vehicles on the road by 2020 to account for 10 per cent of all vehicles (a projected 230,000 electric vehicles).

But how are we doing on that pledge? And how well are we set up for the electric cars that are currently on the Irish roads?

Charging points…

There are currently three different categories of charging point available for electric cars in Ireland: home charge points (usually installed on an external wall and supplied through your domestic electricity connection), public charge points, and fast charge points.

Public charge points can be found on-street and at some commercial premises and charging takes between one and six hours depending on the battery size and car type using the charge point.

The fast charge points deliver higher power to the cars and are much quicker than domestic charging points (potentially charging a car up to 80 per cent full in about half an hour).

Over 700 charging points have been installed around the state. Of these , 256 are public charge points, while a further 397 are in homes and commercial premises. Twenty-eight are fast charge points.

A regularly-updated map of public charge points can be found online here via the ESB eCars website (and a screenshot is pictured below).

The ESB, which is responsible for Ireland’s eCar charging infrastructure, is offering free installation for a home charge point for the first 2,000 electric car owners who register for the installation. The cost of installing a charge point in your home after this scheme has ended will be around €1,000, according to the ESB.

Meanwhile, the Irish Hotels Federation says that its members are considering installing car points for their guests, but only if demand increases.

“Electric car charging points are demand-driven which is relatively low at the moment. However, if demand were to increase and if charging points were offered at a reasonable and cost effective rate, hoteliers around the country would be very interested in providing these services to guests,” Michael Vaughan, president of the Irish Hotels Federation told TheJournal.ie.

(Image via ESB.ie/Google Maps)

… and prices

Electric cars aren’t cheap; prices range in Ireland from €8,000 for the very compact Renault Twizy Urban to around €30,000 for a Mitsubishi iMiEV and around €32,000 for a Nissan Leaf (pictured below).

Running an electric car for a year over a distance of 16,000km should cost around 80 per cent less than running an equivalent diesel or petrol engine vehicle, according to figures from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

Fully charging a battery at home from zero to 100 per cent will cost approximately €1-3 using the cheaper night rate, according to ESB figures, while fully charging a battery from zero at a public charging point will cost €3-5. Currently, charging at public stations is free of charge until a national payment scheme has been rolled out.

Some commercial premises have had charging points installed and are testing the level of demand in the Irish market, while others are considering having points installed but are waiting to see a build-up in electric car numbers. There are charging points at four Tesco Ireland branches around the country: Maynooth, Tramore, Mallow and Swinford. A spokesperson from the company said that electric car charging points are part of Tesco’s interest in ‘environmental retailing’.

Meanwhile, the Irish Hotels Federation says that its members are considering installing car points for their guests, but only if demand increases.

“Electric car charging points are demand-driven which is relatively low at the moment. However, if demand were to increase and if charging points were offered at a reasonable and cost effective rate, hoteliers around the country would be very interested in providing these services to guests,” Michael Vaughan, president of the Irish Hotels Federation told TheJournal.ie.

Funding

The government is currently offering two different grants for the purchase of electric vehicles. For domestic vehicles, grants of €5,000 are avaiable, while a €3,800 grant is open for commercial vehicles. VRT relief is also available for the owners of electric vehicles.

The SEAI is administering the grants on behalf of the Department of Transport; some of the SEAI’s funding also comes from European Structural Funds. The grants aim to provide support in helping to get the eCar market moving and to help early adopters of electric cars to access vehicles, according to the organisation, and a list of registered dealers are posted on its website.

Declan Meally, head of Energy Demand Management at the SEAI told TheJournal.ie that although take up for the grant scheme launched in April 2011 was initially slow, the applications are increasing and have shown a “good upturn” in recent months – particularly since more of the larger car companies are offering eCar or hybrid options. Three manufacturers offer electric vehicles in Ireland which are eligible for the grant: Mitusbishi, Renault and Nissan.

“The big guys are starting to release vehicles,” Meally said. “Last year there was just one or two but now there are several different types here so it’s starting to pick up for consumer choice. We’re also seeing development on the battery range being extended, giving more kilometres per charge.”

“The grant numbers are low at the moment, we’re talking about just over 100 vehicles on the road at the momemt, but the [car] choices are coming, the prices are starting to come down and the grants are acting as a stimulus.”

Meally also said that enthusiasm for the electric vehicle driving experience is building something of a momentum internationally.

Writing recently for TheJournal.ie, DeLorean CEO Stephen Wynne said he believes that the biggest barrier to the widspread introduction of electric vehicles is the public’s perception of electric cars’ driving performance:

I love cars, I’m a car nut, and I believe electric is the way for cars to go. The performance that you’re able to get from en electric car is quite remarkable and we’re only scratching at the surface of it right now. The electric DeLorean is faster than the petrol one by a long shot. So for a car enthusiast that likes performance – it’s there with electric.

Wynne is currently working on producing an electric model of the iconic DeLorean early next year.

Meanwhile, the SEAI, electric vehicle supplier Green Machines and Merrion Fleet Management are involved in a three-year research programme on the Aran Islands. Meally said that the location is an ideal microcosm for the Irish market because the islands have to import all of their fuel and because the vehicles will be undertaking short journeys.

Nissan LEAF at ESB ecar fast charge point in Monasterevin, Co Kildare. (Image: ESB)

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