The Irish Times view on electric cars: Devil in the detail

This week’s grand plan for electric vehicles was more of a shiny vision than a detailed strategy

Any encouragement for motorists to make the move to electric cars is to be welcomed. They are fast, fun to drive and the Government wants us to buy them, wholesale, certainly from 2030 onwards. In fact, they’re taking a lead on other EU states by declaring a ban on the sale of non-zero emission vehicles from then on. The message goes that if we remove the emissions from everyone’s car we’ll go a long way to solving the climate crisis. Certainly, electric is the way to go in terms of air quality.

The devil is in the detail, however. Unhitching the car from the climate debate is not that simple, even if you swap fuel tank for battery stack. The source of the energy to power these cars needs to be taken into account. Do electric cars really offer zero emissions transport? With our current mix of fossil fuel and renewable energy production, an electric car charging from the national grid has effective Co2 emissions of around 70g/km, according to the ESB. So moving to electric is not an absolute end to the emissions issue, more a sliding scale. There are also concerns about the energy expended in the production of the vehicles and issues surrounding the raw materials used in battery production.

There's also the little matter of the Government's target for 950,000 electric vehicles on our roads by 2030, which seems at best ambitious. Certainly those in the motor trade are wondering where all these vehicles will come from, given the limited supply of EVs that will land in Ireland in the next few years. If it ever does go to plan, then the Government will also need to have a detailed strategy in place for the transition, supporting a vastly improved recharging network, for example, while also taking account of the significant impact the move to EV will have on the exchequer.

This week’s grand plan for electric vehicles was more of a shiny vision than a detailed strategy, and while it may have given the Government a green hue, it did little to tackle the major issues and practicalities involved in making the biggest transition in personal transport since the car replaced the bicycle and horse on Irish roads.