Electrifying Ireland’s vehicle fleet a ‘huge challenge’, new report says

A key environmental policy to have almost a million electric vehicles on Irish roads by 2030 will be a “huge challenge” unless the Government incentivises and supports dealing with the oldest polluting cars, while exponentially increasing the charging infrastructure nationwide.

That’s according to a new report released today by Arup and economist Jim Power on reducing light fleet carbon emissions to achieve Government targets.

The independent report, which was commissioned for The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), stated that in order to deal with this older legacy fleet, help will be required for those with the least economic capacity to make the biggest change.

This requires more investment, not just at the top end of the market, to remain fair and equitable if Ireland is to provide all commuters with viable transport options.

According to the report, of equal importance is the urgent need to create a second-hand EV fleet.

The age profile of the national fleet has led to the continued use of older polluting vehicles with 31.1 per cent of vehicles being Euro 4 (pre-2011) or older (700,429 cars).

Analysis within the report shows that removal of all these cars and replacing them with EVs would reduce carbon emissions by 875,000 tonnes, which is the equivalent of planting over 1.1 billion trees.

Whilst the Government is leading the way by currently requiring all their fleets to be replaced with electric vehicles, this could be expedited by requiring a turn over every two or three years.

Ireland, which is a right-hand drive market, has a slower and smaller supply chain than most other European markets, with around 120,000 new car sales per annum (pre-Covid-19) and an average car fleet age of nine years (2021).

With the majority of motorists being used vehicle buyers there is currently three times as many used vehicles being sold as new vehicles, with an insignificant second-hand electric vehicle market. The creation of this secondary market can only happen via a vibrant overall new car market.

The reports states that the ambition to sell nearly a million electric vehicles by 2030 is “extremely challenging”. Supply disruptions wrought by Covid-19, Brexit and the global chip supply shortage, combined with potential rare mineral shortages keeping battery prices high, has further delayed the availability of electric vehicles.

The report also highlights that The European Commission aims to have 30 million EVs on the road by 2030 and estimates that three million public chargers will be needed to support them – by the same measure, Ireland would need 100,000 public chargers, with all new being fast chargers to serve the proposed one million EVs here by the same date.

Currently there are 1,900 chargers installed at 800 sites across the island of Ireland and with the current number of 47,000 EVs on Irish roads the number of charging points falls far short of the 4,700 realistically needed to serve these.

To achieve this investment in public charging infrastructure, a broader approach is required to include policies on charging at home, as well as diversifying the distribution of fast charge points across the country to ensure charging installations support a complete and robust network across the country.

There is scope to integrate private market investment into charging infrastructure to speed up the roll out process and to off-set the capital intensity required to build a wide spread charger network.

Gillian Fanning, SIMI president said: “The Irish Motor Industry is a key partner of the Irish Government in seeking to reduce carbon emissions from motor vehicles.

“All stakeholders as outlined in this report have a responsibility to collaborate in delivering charging infrastructure, incentives and education so that consumers who are at the heart of this plan and critical to its success have the confidence to make the change to zero emission vehicles in greater numbers.”

Terry Lee-Williams, ARUP report’s co-author of the independent report for SIMI said that “confidence” of potential EV buyers “will largely determine the speed of consumer adoption”. He added that Government “must stimulate charger availability ahead of people buying vehicles, until the market matures”.

Pictured (L-R): Terry Lee-Williams, ARUP; Brian Cooke, Director General SIMI; Gillian Fanning, SIMI President; and Jim Power Economist. Pic : Lorraine O’Sullivan