Electrification of Transport top of the agenda

At the recent Transport and Climate Summit in Dublin, it was natural that electric vehicles were a focal point of debate.

Transport accounts for more than 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland and with our country having a legally binding requirement to reduce these by over 80% by 2050, the decarbonisation of road transport will undoubtedly play a key role in national efforts to tackle climate change.

Thankfully, the move to electrification of transport should be relatively achievable in Ireland thanks to the all-island charging infrastructure already in place, plethora of electric cars available on the Irish market and monetary incentives in place for potential buyers. Change, however, takes longer in practice but the movement is gradually gaining momentum on home soil.

ecar parked outside the Transport and Climate Summit in Dublin

At a broader level, new technologies, supportive government policies and the transition to electric by the car industry is having a positive impact worldwide, with the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the world’s roads increasing year-on-year. Today, there are now more than 600,000 EVs on European Roads and over 100,000 in the United Kingdom alone.

Organisations such as ESB are also taking the lead in driving this change. It is part of ESB’s long-term strategy to lead the transition to a low carbon future by decarbonising electricity using renewables and then using this to electrify transport and heat.

Incentives Count

As outlined at the Summit, innovative public policies, in particular, are proving a huge incentive for potential EV buyers. Many US and Canadian states, for example, allow EV drivers free tolls while ​Amsterdam offers free parking when charging as well as prioritised access to residential parking permits. Meanwhile, access to bus lanes, free parking and free road tolls for EV drivers have led to the uptake of 126,000 in electric cars in Norway in recent years, a country that is comparable in size to Ireland

While there are some attractive monetary incentives towards reducing the effective purchase price of EVs in Ireland, the general consensus is that more can be done to encourage potential drivers to enable us to reach our target of having 20,000 EVs on Irish roads by 2020.

Some of the incentives favoured by the car industry in Ireland and that could be implemented here include free road tolls and parking, access to bus lanes and benefit-in-kind exemptions for business cars. There were also calls at the Summit for a requirement that 20 per cent of fleets purchased by public bodies to be EVs as a means of demonstrating public sector leadership.

Benefits and Access

The threats to our environment and the fight against climate change are forcing us all to think about the way we live, including the way that we travel.

Education, as such, is critical in showcasing the benefits of transitioning to electric. In 2016, Ireland’s EV charging network was used more than 140,000 times to recharge electrically powered vehicle, converting to more than six million zero tailpipe emission kilometers on Irish roads and displacing 390,000 litres of fossil fuels.

Infrastructural ease of use is also imperative to encourage uptake, such as an enhanced charge point management system. For instance, a new system rolled out by ecars allows the monitoring of charge point availability on its network and to remotely operate charge point units in the field, as well as the ability to automatically carry out fault diagnoses and repair remotely.

Another recent innovation from ecars is the launch of the ‘live status’ availability feature on its charge network map. This allows drivers to obtain real time information on the availability of charge points – another key tool to enhancing the customer experience.

All of the above ideas and current offerings should play a part in encouraging customers to make the transition from conventional to electric vehicles. Because we all have a part to play in the fight against climate change.

*Gareth Davis, Head of ecars at ESB, spoke at the Transport and Climate Summit 2017 in Dublin.