Is Ireland ready to make the switch to electric vehicles?
Sarah Rigney
Staff Writer

With targets in place of having 1 million electric vehicles on Irish roads by 2030, here we assess how feasible it will be for motorists to make the switch.

As we turn our backs on fossil fuels and strive toward a greener future, a key element we can’t ignore is the switch to electric vehicles (EVs).

Currently in Ireland, 42% of all the energy we use is for transport, and with an EU commitment to achieve an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, alternative energy sources must be considered.

In 2023, the European Parliament voted to ban the sale of combustion engine vehicles in Europe by 2035 to help cut its CO2 emissions, but is Ireland ready to embrace EVs and what obstacles stand in the way? 

A vote to ban combustion engines in the EU

Currently, emissions from cars as road transport account for one-fifth of the EU's CO2 emissions. The EU aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. To achieve this the European Parliament passed a law this year banning the sale of cars with internal combustion engines by 2035, which will result in a halt to sales of petrol and diesel.

To coincide with this goal, the EU has also set emission reduction targets for 2030, which will see emissions from cars reduced by 55% and vans by 50%.

A five-year extension was also approved for the exemption from CO2 obligations granted to so-called "niche" manufacturers, or manufacturers producing fewer than 10,000 vehicles per year, until the end of 2035. 

The clause, referred to as the "Ferrari amendment", will benefit luxury brands.

The current uptake of EVs in Ireland

In 2022, Electric and hybrid cars accounted for 42.4% of all new car sales, outselling both petrol and diesel rivals.

There were 105,253 new car sales in 2022, with registrations being 0.3% higher than last year. 

New car registrations in 2022 were made up of:

  • All-electric models: 14.9%, with 15,678 sales - up 81% on last year
  • Regular hybrids: 19.3%
  • Plug-in hybrids: 8.2 % 
  • Petrol models: 30%
  • Diesel models: 26.8%

Ireland’s EV targets

In December 2021, the Government published its Electric Vehicle Charging

Infrastructure Strategy, which outlines measures to be implemented between 2022 and 2025.

The Government has ambitious targets of having 180,000 Electric Vehicles (EVs) on our roads by 2025 and 950,000 by 2030. This ties in with Ireland’s aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030 and reach net-zero no later than 2050.

In December 2022, the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, said the Government is “on track” to reach its target of having 950,000 electric vehicles by the end of the decade. 

The Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Strategy

The Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Strategy is a pathway for delivery of electric vehicle (EV) charge point infrastructure, which will support the delivery of the Climate Action Plan

The plan is needed to ensure that EV charge point infrastructure provision not only caters for current demand but also remains ahead of demand. 

At present, around 80% of EV charging takes place at home, and with relevant grants available, the installation of home charging infrastructure is relatively accessible. 

However, a substantial gap exists in relation to the provision of publicly accessible charging infrastructure, the demand for which will grow as we head towards the goal of having 1 million EVs on the road by 2030. 

Under the new strategy, which was officially announced in January 2023, €100 million will be spent on public charging infrastructure over the next three years. The move will see the number of chargers increase by between 2,540 and 4,850 during this time.

Key elements of the strategy

The Government’s strategy identifies four main categories of charging infrastructure, all of which serve different user needs:

  1. Home/apartment charging: Home charging should remain the most common and simplest way of charging for the majority. Off-peak charging will be encouraged, so that motorists can avail of cheaper, night charging rates.

  2. Residential neighbourhood charging: For those who cannot charge at home, the Government aims to provide charging solutions that give the same benefits as home charging.

    There’s also talk of a co-charging scheme, whereby EV owners can rent out the use of their personal home charge point to other EV drivers as a low-cost solution for EV owners without driveway access.

  3. Destination charging: There are plans in place to fund the installation of charge points by the public and private sectors at trip-generating destinations, such as hotels, leisure facilities, hospitals, cinemas, etc.

  4. Motorway/en route charging: There will be an increased provision of publicly accessible high-powered (100kW or more) charge points. These will cater for drivers making longer journeys, such as between counties. 

The challenges with EV uptake

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) estimates that currently there are only 60,000 EVs on Irish roads, just 2.7% of the total car fleet.

While having almost 1 million EVs on Irish roads in the coming years sounds great in theory, it’s vital to assess the feasibility and potential roadblocks. 

1. Affordability

It’s no secret that EVs come with a high price tag initially, which may not be attainable for everyone. 

Despite the high price, the running cost of EVs are less than petrol or diesel cars, and motorists will make up for the extra expense within a few years. 

To help ease the burden, the Government offers a range of financial support and incentives to help people make the switch.

In the period between 2010 and 2021, it’s estimated that the Government provided financial incentives worth at least €322 million. More than half of that was paid in VRT relief for hybrid cars.

Going forward, only BEVs will be eligible to receive State support. 

2. Supply issues

Wanting to purchase an EV is great, however, the reality is you’d be lucky to get your hands on a new one. That’s because there’s a severe shortage of new cars entering the Irish market. 

In May of last year, Volkswagen announced it had sold out of EVs in the US and Europe for the rest of 2022 - and it hasn't been the only supplier struggling.

Ongoing supply issues have meant EV sales are lagging. An average mid-sized new car – particularly an advanced all-electric model – can require more than 1,000 computer chips, which are in short supply. Chipmakers have warned the supply issues are unlikely to subside this year.

You can learn all about the new car supply chain issues and causes here.

3. Lack of chargers

While there is a range of incentives for people to install EV chargers at home, there’s still a severe lack of publicly available chargers, particularly fast ones. 

According to the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), to meet demand over the coming eight years, we need to install 100,000 fast-charging points. This will undeniably be a struggle considering at the moment we only have 1,900 public chargers, at 800 locations nationwide. 

It doesn’t help that just 33 public EV charging stations have been approved under a scheme announced three years ago, which aimed to develop up to 200 charge points annually. 

The scheme allows local authorities to receive a grant to cover three-quarters of the cost - up to €5,000 - of installing a charge. Disappointingly the scheme had little up-take among local authorities, with just three local authorities having signed up to the scheme so far.

On the bright side, with the Government’s EV charging strategy outlined above, more stations will likely be installed in the coming years, but will it be enough to meet demand?

4. Range anxiety

Lastly, some motorists are reluctant to make the switch due to ‘range anxiety’. This is when there’s concern around an EV being sufficient enough to make the journey to the desired destination. 

However, as technology advances, the range of EVs has improved. Different cars have different ranges, so make sure you take this into consideration if you’re looking to switch to electric. 

A look at Europe

Last December saw the sale of EVs in Europe surpass the sale of diesel cars for the very first time, with countries like Norway, Sweden and Iceland leading the way.

Around 176,000 battery EVs were sold in Western Europe in 2021 - an all-time high.

However, EV charging points are not so evenly spread, with research from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) showing that half of all charging points for electric cars in the European Union are concentrated in only two countries – the Netherlands (90,000 chargers) and Germany (60,000).

So, is Ireland ready for EV uptake?

Despite the obstacles outlined, it seems as though Irish consumers are prepared and willing to make the switch to electric. 

In a survey carried out by Allianz, it was discovered that out of 1,000 participants, 57% stated that they intend to buy an electric vehicle in the future.

Compared to previous generations, Gen Z and millennials have the highest intentions of buying an electric vehicle, with 14% intending to purchase one in the next year.

It’s fair to say that the demand for EVs is there and initiatives are in place, however, we must be well-equipped with easily accessible, fast-charging stations.

Other EV articles

Don’t forget, you can stay up to date with all the latest news with our blog and guide pages.

If you want to hear an in-depth discussion of EVs, be sure to tune in to our February podcast! Our hosts Caoimhe and Fionn, along with some special guests, talk through everything to do with electric vehicles. Have a listen here

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