The Green Party has welcomed figures released by the Society of Irish Motoring Industry (SIMI) detailing new car registrations for January 2019. SIMI’s statistics show that electric vehicle sales comprised 2.6% of the market share for the month.
Liam Quaide, Local Election Candidate for the Green Party in East Cork, commented, “while this is a significant improvement on the annual figure of less than 1% for 2018, Ireland is lagging far behind government targets set in 2010 to have 10% of our fleet electric by 2020.”
Mr Quaide believes that the lack of charging infrastructure is the main factor holding back the adoption of electric cars: “Figures available on the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) website show that electric cars can save 74% in transport costs over even a diesel engine. A €5000 government grant is available for the purchase of a new electric vehicle. The government also provides €600 towards the installation of a home charging unit, which costs in the region of €1100.
Waterford Council, to their credit, has made parking for electric cars free throughout the county. This, however, should be a national policy. We can look to Norway, where over 30% of all new cars purchased last year were electric. Norweigan electric vehicle owners can avoid road tax and road tolls, pay half price on ferries, get free parking in cities and can usually use bus lanes. Crucially, Norway has an extensive charging network.”
Mr. Quaide highlighted that there is only a handful of charging points for electric vehicles in the whole of East Cork. “If it wasn’t for the initiative of businesses such as Hurley’s Supervalu in Midleton, the Garryvoe Hotel and the Castlemartyr Resort, which have installed charge points in their car-parks, this number would be far less. To commit to an electric car, you have to be assured that you’ll be able to recharge en route when necessary. With transport accounting for 21% of our greenhouse gas emissions nationally and with EU fines of €600m per year looming due to our government’s inaction on this issue, we need serious leadership from our government to promote electric car ownership.”
Mr. Quaide also argued for a fairer system of purchase incentives. “The SEAI grant of €5000 should be extended to second hand electric vehicles within a specific price range. A sliding scale could apply to less expensive cars – for instance, €5000 could be deducted from a car costing €20,000, €4,000 from a car costing €19000 and so on. The SEAI website actually advertises such a sliding scale. However, on further examination, this only applies to new cars – all of which cost well in excess of €20,000.”
By restricting this incentive to brand new cars the government is, according to Mr. Quaide, “essentially offering up environmentalism for the rich”. Many people are, he argued, “keen to reduce their carbon emissions and their exposure to traffic pollution but are nowhere near to affording a new car. There should be good incentives for those who want to buy second-hand electric vehicles.
If we are to introduce a carbon tax our citizens – particularly those who are struggling to make ends meet – need to have affordable alternatives to switch to. These can only be delivered through radical improvement of public transport, expansion of incentives for electric cars and a major development of our electric charging infrastructure. Without making these changes we will simply be penalising people who have limited scope to change their behaviour.”