This week, We heard the government has big plans to overhaul the type of cars we drive.
The Climate Action Plan was introduced on Monday, a much-anticipated plan that aimed to show how Ireland will deal with the threat of climate change. Under the plan, the government is aiming for 100% of cars on the road to be electric in 2030. That’s about one million cars.
There doesn’t appear to be increased tax breaks for the purchase of cars but the Taoiseach said a scrappage scheme is being considered for the future to encourage drivers to get rid of their petrol or diesel car for an electric vehicle or hybrid.
Charge points for electric cars will be increased around the country, but in order to incentivise businesses such as petrol stations to install such points, the free charging that has been enjoyed by electric car vehicle owners will end. Local authorities will also be rolling out about 200 charge points nationwide.
Cost is the initial barrier for those who are considering switching from petrol or diesel, but the government insists the series of supports available will encourage people to go electric.
If you buy a new electric vehicle (EV), you can get a grant of up to €5,000 towards the cost. For commercial vehicles the maximum grant is €3,800.
But under the rules, the government will only give you a grant for vehicles priced €14k or higher. Also, the lower the price, the lower the grant – the maximum €5k grant only applies to vehicles with a price tag of €20k or more.
Paying €14,000 for a car is still a lot of money to most, with many paying a lot less for second-hand cars.
The latest figures show that fewer new car sales have taken place this year, with the latest figures from the Irish Motor Industry showing that to date, 79,343 new cars were sold this year, a drop of 7.6% on last year.
What other incentives are there?
EV owners pay the lowest motor tax rate, which is €120 a year. The motor tax on the Ford Focus is €180, by comparison.
Owners of new electric vehicles registered before December 2021 are eligible for VRT relief up to €5,000. With the 14% rate of VRT applied to electric vehicles, this means EVs have a tax-free value of up to €35,714. In the case of the new Nissan Leaf, one of the cheapest EVs on the market, VRT is €0.
In addition, in Budget 2018 the government introduced a new Benefit in Kind (BIK) 0% rate for Battery EVs. The BIK rules ensure that there is no BIK liability associated with recharging EVs in workplaces.
There is also the perk of reduced toll charges. As of July 1st, 2018, EV and plug-in hybrid drivers are eligible for reduced toll charges under the Electric Vehicle Toll Incentive included in Budget 2018.
Free parking is also available in some areas around the country, but be careful with this one, as sometimes parking charges still apply.
So, how much do electric cars cost?
According to Car Buyers’ Guide, EVs can cost from €10,000 (for the two-seater Renault Twizy) to €162,000 (for the BMW i8).
The Renault Zoe and the Nissan Leaf are often referred to as the most price-friendly, costing between €17,000 to €26,000. Still a lot of cash for most to spend on a car upfront.
If you do decide to get an EV, the government thinks the most convenient place for people to charge it is at their own home.
There is currently a €600 SEAI grant available towards the purchase and installation of a home charger system. On carcharger.ie, the cost for a basic 16 amp charger plus installation, cabling and VAT is €1,049, or €449 with the grant included.
There are currently almost 1,100 free public charge points available across the island of Ireland, with many petrol stations also planning to roll out additional charge points in the future.
End of free charging?
However, one of the stumbling blocks envisaged for people signing up to electric is there are plans afoot to introduce fees for public charging in the near future.
Department officials have stated charging will be “imminent”, and reasoned that the move to take away free charging at a time when the government wants to increase uptake, is to encourage the installation of more charge points around the country (people will install them if they can make money off them, is the argument).
While it appears to be a Catch 22, the government certainly does need to ramp up the number of charge points if it is to service one million EVs by 2030.
A spokesperson for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment states that under the new action plan, the government will bring “950,000 electric vehicles onto our roads, deliver a nationwide charging network, an electric vehicle scrappage scheme and legislation to ban the sale of petrol / diesel cars from 2030″.
With the installation of a night meter, based on ESB cost comparisons, an electric car can be charged at home to run for 200km for as little as €2.54 using night-time electricity – less than 1/8th of the cost of a petrol car. A petrol car would cover an equivalent distance for €21.60. There is also a €600 grant available for home chargers.
Currently ESB eCars on street electric vehicle car chargers are free to use. ESB eCars announced in late 2018 that it intended to start charging fees for customers to use fast chargers in mid 2019, followed by the introduction of fees for standard chargers approximately a year later but that it would hold stakeholder consultation in advance of the introduction of fees.
What else is the government proposing to get us to switch?
As an alternative to the current grant regime, consideration will be given in 2020 to a car-scrappage scheme to promote the purchase of electric vehicles.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has not ruled out using some of the funds from the increased carbon tax to help establish a car scrappage scheme, but said this week that any decision on the scheme will be made in a budgetary context.
In the climate change plan, it recognises that within Ireland 2040 there is just over €30 billion committed to supporting that plan.
Any further decision will be in light of Budget 2020.
The minister was quick to point out that he has only committed to considering a scrappage scheme, and has made no formal commitment for it to be rolled out.
But looking at the stats, the numbers of EVs has been on the rise for the last couple of years.
Sales of new electric cars almost doubled last year, with registrations of electric cars increased from 622 in 2017 to 1,233, a 98% year-on-year increase.
This increase came amidst an overall decrease in the amount of new cars sold in Ireland last year.
New electric vehicles sales in the total year to date (2019) is 1,902, compared to last year, where it just 512 had been sold, that’s a 271.5% increase.
New electric vehicles sales in total to May of this year is 172. For the same period last year, just 88 were sold, so that’s a 95.5% jump.
What do the car manufacturers think?
With numbers like that, perhaps Ireland is on the way to moving to electric. But what do those in the field make of the action plan and the ambitious targets?
The chief executive of Toyota Ireland, Steve Tormey has said the 2030 goal “will not be an easy one to reach”.
Toyota has been criticised in the past for not pushing out more EVs. Forbes reports that back in March, Road and Track took a closer look at the company’s conundrum and came away with the conclusion, “that the carmaker’s internal math indicated they could sell a boatload more (or several hundred boatloads more) hybrids than they ever could pure battery-powered electric cars”.
However, Forbes reports that in the space of about the last three months, everything seemed to changed, with Toyota seeing the rapidly growing EV market, has now decided to move it’s “back-burnered all-electric car plans up” by five years.
Toyota Ireland boss said this week, that his company is committed to playing its part and leading Ireland towards zero emissions motoring.
He outlined a number of challenges in reaching the goal of one million EVs on the road by 2030.
“Given the myriad challenges facing full electrification, from the global shortage of lithium for batteries through to the inherent challenges associated with creating a charging infrastructure that can cater to one million vehicles, it is our view that there is no silver bullet to reducing CO2 output.
“From our perspective the best potential to achieve the 2030 goal lies in a mix of alternatively powered vehicles. As such, over the coming years we will continue the development of our hybrid electric vehicles (which you don’t need to plug-in), which are already delivering the lowest CO2 output of any car brand in Europe and have a major role to play in the next decade,” said Tormey, adding:
“In addition to this, our plan is to supply a range of zero emissions vehicles including the hydrogen powered Mirai which omits water that is pure enough to drink, as well as battery-powered electric vehicles.”
The CEO pointed out that the sale of diesel is now a non-runner for many, including Toyota, stating that the company was the first mainstream car brand to cease the sale of diesel passenger cars in 2018.
With all this talk about changing our driver habits, it does appear to have sparked our interest, if nothing else. According to DoneDeal, 10% of all car searches in Ireland are now for electric and hybrid vehicles.
The motor website analysed over 200 million car searches on their website between January 2017 and May 2019, revealing that searches for hybrid and electric cars increased by 244% over the two and a half-year period.
While we may be searching the cars online, whether we can reach that deep into our pockets to pay for one is another thing.