Ireland’s new climate action plan is ambitious to say the least. With the goal of putting 950,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030, and shooting for the achievement of net zero emissions by 2050, the aggressive approach is in response to the recent declaration of a climate emergency made by Irish Parliament earlier this year. The new climate action plan would fully ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2030. The plan would also mandate that 70% all electricity come from renewable sources by that same year. Approximately one-third of Ireland’s energy-related CO2 emissions come from cars and trucks and the switch to electric vehicles is seen as one of the easiest ways to reduce the country’s carbon footprint.
Additional programs outlined in the new climate action plan call for an increase in on and offshore wind development (Ireland currently generates about one-third of its electricity this way), and a solar program that will allow residents to generate their own electricity. Any energy not used by homeowners would be sold back to Ireland’s national grid. Ireland is also considering retrofitting existing buildings equipped with electricity powered heat pump systems in order to improve performance.
Sales of electric vehicles have been sluggish on the Emerald Isle. While the first quarter of 2019 saw a 409% increase in EV sales over the first quarter of 2018, overall sales have been low compared to similar markets. New tax breaks for businesses choosing EVs may be driving this increase in sales, which amounted to approximately 1,400 new units in the first quarter of 2019. Additionally, a plan to expand charging infrastructure within the country is sure to entice new buyers who would otherwise be squeamish about going all-electric.
Volkswagen, a leading competitor in the Irish vehicle market, recently introduced a special “Business Edition” of its all-electric eGolf model. In an effort to maximize luxury and minimize cost, this model will retail for around €50,000 and will contain many of the options found in more expensive vehicles. Later this year, Volkswagen will launch a hatchback version of the eGolf model which will be able to achieve an impressive 310 mile range on a single charge. Volkswagen has also indicated that it will continue to focus on plug-in hybrid vehicles, which the company sees as an important part of their market share.
In addition to concerns about travel distance, Irish consumers also seem to be apprehensive about the cost of EVs. Electric vehicles are often assumed to be more expensive to buy than gas powered cars, even with government grants. For example, the 2019 all-electric Nissan Leaf retails for approximately €29,000. The 2019 gas-powered Ford Focus, a direct competitor, retails for around €25,000. Considering that the Focus is approximately €1,000 more expensive to power per year due to the variance between the price of electricity and the price of gas, it would take about four years for the Leaf owner to see any real savings. Still, the authors of the new climate action plan are optimistic that car buyers will eventually “look at the costs over the whole of the lifetime of the investment,” and choose electric vehicles over their gas powered competitors.
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