Subscriber OnlyPricewatch

Buying an electric car: From affordability to charging infrastructure, here is all you need to know

Pricewatch: Conor Pope breaks down the pros and cons of EVs in Ireland

So we’re all driving electric cars now are we?

Hmm. You know well that we’re not. That’s not to say we won’t be in the near future. Electric cars – or electric vehicles (EVs) as we shall call them for the rest of this page are becoming more and more commonplace on our roads with each passing week and are likely to be even more popular as this decade continues. The old-school diesel and petrol cars are still, by far, the most popular cars on Irish roads mind you.

But loads of EVs are being sold right?

Well, yes – around one fifth of all the cars sold in Ireland last year were EVs according to figures from the Central Statistics Office. That means that more than 22,000 electric cars were registered last year, an increase of almost 50 per cent on the year before. There were a further 10,500 plug-in hybrids sold. It also means that more than 80,000 more traditional cars were sold last year so petrol and diesel remain the dominant powers on Irish roads.


I thought we all had to be driving EVs in the near future?

Well that is the Government’s plan and the EU wants petrol and diesel motors to be largely discontinued in little more than a decade. According to the Government’s roadmap to a greener future, close to one million EVs will be travelling Irish roads by 2030.

2030? Sure that’s ages away?

It does sound like a long time into the future for sure, but it isn’t. Truth be told it is less than six years from now which is why there is a degree of urgency required if the Government’s plans are to be met. As it stands today there are around 100,000 EVs on the road. We need that number to increase eight fold if the we are to hit our EV target. Realistically we are not going to make it. If every single car sold from now until 2030 was EV we’d still struggle to make the target.

And what’s the mad rush to reach that target?

You may have heard of this thing called the climate crisis. It’s kind of a big deal and while a nation – or indeed a world – of EV drivers won’t solve the problems, the big switch will at least go some way to offsetting some of the damage we are doing to the planet. Petrol and diesel cars are heavy polluters and generate a substantial amount of carbon emissions while our desire to drive largely fuels the petrochemical industry that has wreaked havoc on the climate for decades. EVs by contrast do not burn fossil fuels so do not make the problem worse.

But am I not better off driving my existing car rather than buying a new EV?

You might think that the car you have is better for the environment than a new car you might buy given the impact on the planet of making the new car but it is not that simple. Figures from the European Parliament suggest that around 10 tonnes of CO2 are emitted in the manufacture of an EV with the bulk of that produced in the making of the car’s battery. That’s not great, obviously but according to the report a motorist driving a petrol car will produce about 15-tonnes of C02 for every 150,000km driven. On top of that there is about five tonnes of emissions generated in the manufacture of the petrol car with a similar amount generated as a result of the extraction and refining of the fuel it needs. So a motorist who buys a new petrol car and drives it for 150,000km will generate 25 tonnes of CO2 compared with 10 tonnes for the EV driver.

Ah but the EV needs electricity and the generation of that involves the burning of fossil fuels right?

It does indeed but the amount of fossil fuels burned in order to generate electricity is falling every year thanks to advances when it comes to renewables – mainly wind and solar power. Around 40 per cent of Ireland’s power is generated by renewables right now and that percentage is only going to increase. It is also worth pointing out that car manufacturers increasingly use renewables to power their car factories which lessens the impact on the planet further.

But the batteries are large and can’t be good for mother earth?

They are indeed large and the mining of the metals and minerals needed to make them go is without doubt problematic. But handed correctly the materials are almost eternally recyclable. Petrol and diesel by contrast are not remotely recyclable and once you’ve burned a litre of fuel it is gone for good – with much of it gone into the atmosphere which is no good at all.

Okay, apart from the environmental benefits, what about the finances. EVs are really dear aren’t they?

The short and not entirely positive answer to this question is yes. You won’t have much change out of €30,000 when buying a new and modestly sized EV. If you were to buy a new VW Golf today it would set you back around €36,000. VW’s electric equivalent is the ID.3 and that costs around €40,000. A petrol or diesel guzzling Hyundai Tuscon meanwhile will cost you €38,000 while the same manufacturers plug-in hybrid equivalent will set you back around €49,000. It is much the same story when it comes to other companies. It is worth noting that typically the EVs come with a higher spec and are nicer to drive.

But might EVs get cheaper in the future?

Ah yeah. Last October, the Done Deal car price index showed that the average price of a new EV fell below €50,000 although only just. The car seller’s price index suggested 231 registrations sold for €53,250 while 232 regs sold for an average of €49,900. But those prices are averages and they can be a whole lot cheaper than that. The Nissan Leaf sells for as little as €28,495 (we use the word “little” advisedly) while in the months ahead Dacia will launch its new EV here and it likely to be less than that. Fiat is also planning to roll out a low cost Panda while Citroën is to launch a C3 hatchback at an expected starting price of below €25,000.

Still pretty dear. Are there any more savings to be had?

Yes. The cost of servicing and repair are likely to be cheaper for an EV while the cost of fuel can be dramatically cheaper. A person who is savvy about how they charge can keep their car on the road for a full year for less than €500 or at least €1,200 less than the driver of a more traditional car covering the same distance.

Is that they’re only saving?

No. According to a recent report in this newspaper, an EV driver can expect to pay around 10 per cent less a year in car insurance which could amount to a saving of around €50 a year. You will also pay less tax by going electric. Taxing a decent EV will cost around €120 while taxing a similarly sized petrol car will set you back in the region of €280. To save you doing the maths, that’s €160 more. There is also an SEAI grant of up to €3,500 as long as your new EV has a price tag – including any extras – of between €18,000 and €60,000. You can get smaller amounts if you buy an EV for less than 18k although good luck with that. There is also a VRT exemption for drivers of EVs that might save you a further €500 or so depending on the model of car.

What do all those numbers mean?

So if we add all the savings over a five-year period to the grant it comes in at €11,050 which closes the gap between a petrol VW and VW’s EV range with some change for example. You will also have the added feel good factor (or smugness if you are feeling a bit harsh) that money can’t buy.

Well that’s not too shabby – and all those savings are set in stone?

Absolutely not. They come with all manner of caveats. Electricity prices might climb, the grants and tax exemptions might disappear. We don’t have a crystal ball and have got enough predictions about the future wrong to know that things can change quickly – and not always for the better. Mind you things can change pretty dramatically when it comes to fossil fuels too and it doesn’t take long for the prices on that score to spiral too.

Now, charging. I am told that is still an issue?

It is actually at least four issues. There is the price for starters. Then there is the length of time it takes to charge a car battery and the distance you will get from a fully charged battery. And finally there is the network of public charging points around the country.

Talk to me about the price. How do we compare with elsewhere? carried out a survey of 39 countries and we came out as one of the most expensive countries in which to charge an electric car at home. Denmark was dearest with a cost of €36.17 to charge a car, followed by Belgium (€27.66) and Czechia (€23.68). Ireland came in ninth on €19.87. Kosovo was the cheapest, at just €3.92.

And what about the length of time it takes to charge a car?

Not all charging points are equal. The ESB e-cars network is by far the dominant player in the market. They have a set up which is made up of three types of charging point. There are the standard AC points which charge at a rate of 22kw per hour. The fast chargers which charge at 50kw and then the high power chargers which operate at up to 150kw per hour. They have a small number that are faster again.

None of those numbers mean anything to me?

The slowest of these chargers can typically take as long as seven hours to power up a car while the fast charging points can get a car 80 per cent full in around 30 minutes. The high power chargers can give you 100km of driving in as little as six minutes.

And is that fast?

There are faster options. Tesla has a Supercharging network that can run at up to 250kW and is capable of adding as much as 275km of range in 15 minutes. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the network has been limited to Tesla drivers although it is opening up a couple to other EV drivers as part of Elon Musk’s commitment to making EV ownership more attractive. It has nine Supercharging locations in Ireland and is opening an eight-charger site in Athenry, Co Galway and a six-charger site in Enfield, Co Meath to other EVs.

Then there is Circle K which is expanding its network of Ionity electric car charging points available at its service station network. It is planning to add 12 Ionity fast chargers, which have a 350kW capacity, to the Circle K network, with new points at service stations in Kill, Athlone, Gorey, Meath and Cashel. That will bring to 36 the number of Ionity chargers installed at Circle K forecourts around the country. The IONIQ6 on the right charger in the right conditions can do 10-80 per cent in 18 mins.

But I can charge my car at home, right?

You can and it is without a doubt the cheapest way to do it – as Blake Boland of the AA points out elsewhere on this page. But you will probably need off street parking and in the absence of a home charger it can be very slow. Although if you are asleep while it does the business speed won’t matter a jot. You might spend €1,000 on the installation of a home charger which adds to the cost although there is a grant for that. It is not as big as it was and has been reduced from €600 to €300.

What about the resale value, I’ve heard that might be a problem?

It might. There has been some horror stories – including at least one on this page – about people being hit with large bills for new batteries to keep their cars on the road. It is early days and there isn’t much by way of a history when it comes to EVs so it is still unclear how long batteries will last. But what is clear is that they are lasting way longer than most people expected. There’s also tech out there that you plug into the car and it will tell you the exact health of the battery. But the resale market does not like uncertainty. According to Done Deal the price of used EVs fell 7.1 per cent in the year to last October. The price of hybrid cars rose 6.5 per cent over the same period. Overall, prices in the used car market rose 10.5 per cent. It is worth pointing out that there were very few EVs sold on the platform and the accounted for just 2.3 per cent of the stock of used cars on Done Deal. Across the Irish Sea, Car Dealer magazine reported in the summer that EVs accounted for 29 of the 30 cars that had dropped the most in value from their initial purchase price, with pure electrics dropping 33 per cent in value. One reason may be that there is a lot of stock coming off finance deals and that has recently flooded the market. Falling price of new EVs means downward pressure on used prices. Bad for some people caught out but great for making used and cheaper EVs more accessible to the general population.

But despite all the issues EVs are the way forward, right?

They certainly do seem like the future and car makers have invested heavily in them. Right now range anxiety remains an issue although more and more cars are coming on stream that can cover in excess of 600km on a single charge and advances should make charging and range much better within a few years. If you cover less than 15,000km a year and do mostly urban driving and can charge your car at home at night and have the cash to spend then it certainly will be the way to go. But the motoring revolution is probably not for everyone just yet.

How to get the most out of your new electric car

For as long as Pricewatch can recall, the AA in Ireland have been carrying out regular price surveys outlining the cost of petrol and diesel. In recent times they have also been updating Ireland on the cost of charging EVs.

In its most recent update it noted that there has been a marginal drop in charging costs in January with EV owners set to pay on average €967 per year, compared to the December average of €975 to cover the national annual average of 17,000km.

This figure of €967 is far higher compared to before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but still compares quite favourably with combustion engine equivalents. A similarly sized diesel vehicle will cost approximately €1,999 to cover that same distance of 17,000km.

“EV drivers need to shop around to get the best rates possible on their home electricity. There are new entrants to the market and lots of favourable switcher rates,” says the AA’s Blake Boland. “Those with smart meters taking advantage of cheap night-time rates could see their yearly bill for the national average of 17,000km dropping to just under €300. There are significant savings to be made by switching to an EV in the right way.”

We also asked Boland for some tips on making our EV go further. “Lowering the speed you drive at is perhaps the best way to extend your range. An AA Ireland real-world experiment showed that dropping your speed from 120k km per hour to 100 on the motorway resulted in a 29 per cent drop in fuel consumption. Stick to speed limits, and try to keep your speed consistent,” he suggests.

Then there is the temperature. As anyone with an EV knows, the range is much better in the summer than the winter. That is because batteries don’t love the cold and also because we drain them faster by keeping our cars warm.

“Reduce the temperature that your heating is set to” says Boland. “Most modern EVs come with a heat pump which is very efficient. Even still, wear a jumper, lower the temperature and save the energy for moving the car. Even better, don’t use the heater. If you can get away with it, use the heated seats and steering wheel. Another trick is to preheat the car while it’s still plugged in. That way, you drive off with a heated car and a full battery.”

He also reminds would-be EV drivers to keep their car in good working order. “This is particularly the case with tyres. Make sure that they are inflated to the right pressure. Be aware that pressure can drop in very cold weather and your tyres might need inflating. If you are changing your tyres, make sure to ask your garage about the most energy efficient options.”

Planning your journey can save you a good bit of energy, he continues. “Don’t jump straight to the fastest route, as the shortest one may well be best for your range. Taking a slower and shorter route could help save a few kilometres range. Avoiding very heavy traffic can also help. Leaving at a different time may mean a more consistent speed and lower energy use.”

And finally he says the best way to save your battery is to not use it at all! “Predict the road ahead and avoid using precious energy. Don’t accelerate if you see a red light ahead. Don’t speed into a corner. Instead, ease off the accelerator well in advance. EVs are fantastic at recuperating energy from braking, but it’s even more efficient if you avoid the need to use it in the first place.”