Infrastructure putting the brakes on electric vehicles

One million electric cars by 2030?

Last year, the Government Climate Action Plan outlined plans to get one million electric vehicles on Irish roads by 2030. The actual figures are as follows:

• 840,000 personal electric cars (550,000 battery electric vehicles and 290,000 plug in hybrid electric vehicles)
• 100,000 electric vans
• 940,000 electric vehicles in total

Note: conventional hybrid cars are not included in these figures as they are part of the proposed 2030 ban.

At the start of 2020, there were only 9,000 electric vehicles on the road. Less than 1% of the target.
This is the size of the task in hand. Plus, there are plenty of roadblocks along the road to 2030 that make the target even more unlikely. Here are just a few:

Lack of infrastructure

Electric vehicles need places to charge – that’s a given. Whilst many people can install charge points at home, this option is not available to everyone. More public charging points are essential.

There are currently 1,100 public charging points on Irish roads, plus a further 337 of which are in Northern Ireland. The government plans to add 200 more each year until 2025, taking the total across the island of Ireland to just over 2,000.

Will that be enough? Let’s look elsewhere for context. Norway leads the way in this area. They have 12,000 charging stations serving 300,000 electric or hybrid vehicles.

We are miles off this in Ireland. Based on current plans, we simply will not have the infrastructure to support one million EVs on the roads by 2030. But that’s not the only reason the 2030 target is doomed to fail.

12,000 charging stations for 300,000 electric vehicles in Norway. In Ireland we have just 800 – a figure that may only double by 2025.

Manufacturing and supply shortages

Current car retail figures suggest that a target of million electric vehicles by 2030 is pie in the sky:

• In 2019, there was 117,100 new cars sold in total
• At these levels, 1.17 millon new cars will be sold in the next decade
• Of those, 830,000 (71%) would need to be electric cars to meet government standard
• The Government’s Climate Action Plan expects 689,000 of those cars to be sold between 2025-2030 along – that’s 137,800 a year
• Last year, just 3% of new cars sold were electric (3,444)
• New car sales are declining year-on-year – only once in the last 10 years has it exceeded 137,800

Even as electric car prices reduce over the next few years, a jump to seven in every 10 new cars being electric seems out of the question.

There simply won’t be enough electric vehicles available on the market by 2030 to reach the one million target. Manufacturers say it’s impossible to scale up production quickly enough.

Confusion in market also hurting supply because motorists are confused as to what to buy next, this is also negatively affecting supply of new zero emissions vehicles. Manufacturers will look at total car sales in a country and create new models based on this.

So, a longer-term target of 2040 – in line with the EU – is the most realistic time frame.

Limited range

Electric vehicles have a range of between 200km to 600km. But factors such as extra weight, speed and bad weather can prevent cars from reaching their full range.

Public charging points are sorely lacking. For many, electric cars are not a viable option now or into the future. Many rural motorists, or those driving long distances, need change to public infrastructure or EV range – or both – if they are to consider a switch to electric.

High costs

Electric cars are getting cheaper by the year. The average price of a car sold in Ireland in 2019 was €26,675 while the average price of an EV (excluding grants) was €45,000. The average price of a zero emissions car needs to be in the €27k range to achieve volume sales in the Irish market. But they are still significantly more expensive than traditional diesel or petrol cars. Even when you factor in the current €10,000 grant for a new car.

And grants are already being phased out. Indeed some have already been scrapped. Once electric car sales really start to pick up and the cost to the Exchequer grows, then all grants will inevitably be cut by the end of the decade. The Department of Finance have already indicated this.

The tipping point will come when the price of an electric car is on a par with petrol or diesel cars. Once it makes financial sense for motorists to buy electric, the switch to electric cars will begin in earnest, but that is still some years away.

Until then, a new petrol or diesel car is a pragmatic way for motorists to reduce their carbon footprint, as we move towards zero emissions by 2040.

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Choose the car that suits you best

While we are all aiming towards zero emissions, it’s important to realise that any new car will help you take the next step along the way. That means choosing a car that works best for your needs.

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