Government urged to continue support for electric vehicles

An Oireachtas committee has learned that creating a strong market in used electric vehicles (EVs) will be crucial to meeting climate change goals.

The Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action also learned that the use of ESB charging stations has tripled this year, reaching 70,000 charging sessions per month.

Brian Cooke, managing director of the Society for Irish Motor Industry, called on the state to continue its “generous” support to the sector.

“A strong used electric vehicle market will be essential to achieve the ambitious goals of the climate action plan,” he said.

Mr Cooke told the committee that a recent erosion of support was premature.

He said putting a million electric vehicles on the road by 2030 is “not impossible – but it is unlikely given the current level of new car sales.”

He warned that those who cannot afford an EV must be supported.

Otherwise, he warned they would run the risk of being “trapped and subjected to increased fuel prices, as well as increased carbon taxes.”

Mr Cooke added that “the continued deployment of a national pricing structure is crucial” – especially in rural Ireland.

Marguerite Sayers of ESB said there are now more than 1,350 charging points in various locations on the island of Ireland.

The semi-state’s executive director of customer solutions, Ms Sayers, said ESB has invested heavily and is working to “modernize and significantly strengthen the charging network.”

“We are committed to ensuring that our public charging network is reliable and that the public has confidence in it,” said Ms. Sayers.

The “reliability rate” rose to 98% this year, from 84%. This means that virtually all charging stations are available at all times.

She noted that the most widely available charger is 22KW.

A driver is never more than 35 km from any of these charging points, she said, noting that they can deliver a full charge in less than six hours.

This infrastructure “will facilitate the movement of around 400,000 cars on the roads,” she said.

Fianna Fáil senator Timmy Dooley accused BSE of “lack of ambition”, and said its investment of “80 million euros to date” should be “ten times as much, quite frankly” .

The committee also heard that electric vehicles leave a carbon footprint.

Dr Damien Ó Tuama, national cycling coordinator at Cyclist.ie, warned that electric vehicles “are certainly not zero carbon”.

The highest proportion of trips in Ireland “are between one and three kilometers,” he said, citing the National Transport Authority’s household travel survey.

But he claimed that the electric bike has been largely ignored in the conversation around electronic travel.

He told the committee that e-bikes not only contribute to climate change, but also revitalize towns and villages and reduce traffic congestion.

Dr Colm Byrne, who is a geriatrician, indicated that as Ireland’s population continues to age, the more active people are, the more robust they will be.

Representing the NGO Irish Doctors for the Environment, he advised integrating exercise into daily activity.

Cycling offers this and many other benefits, he said.

Dr Byrne said he’s seeing more and more people in their 80s riding e-bikes.

He also called for making the roads safer for cyclists.

“There is a huge appetite” in the automotive industry in Ireland to deliver on the promise of electric vehicles, Brian Cooke told the committee.

He insisted that he is “committed to reducing emissions”.

Mr Cooke noted that a lot has changed since SIMI’s last appearance before the commission – four years ago.

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