EVs tried and tested

The Irish motorist is finally falling in love with the Electric vehicle (EV).  So far this year 11,164 EV’s have been registered in Ireland-  a 50% increase on the same period last year.  Last year, 15,462 new electric cars were licensed compared to 8,554 in 2021 and just 623 in 2017. Consumers are installing home chargers, while businesses like Circle K are responding by announcing the installation of over 30 EV chargers across its outlets by 2025. 

We’re pretty sure, that electrification of cars is the endgame, despite many obstacles like legislation, high cost, raw materials, infrastructure and a consumer-car based solution to a public transport problem. 

Nonetheless, by 2030, the Climate Action Plan aims to have 30% of new car registrations electric. Petrol cars which account for 8% of direct CO2 emissions are being phased out. 

We will miss them, but without further ado, I had to see what all the EV fuss is about. I picked up a stunning blue Peugeot e2008 compact SUV at Gowan Auto in Sandyford, Dublin. 

The stunning blue car boasts all the usual high end technologies and an engine promising a whopping range of 345 km.

Marketing manager at Gowan Auto, Ciaran Cusack gave me an ESB card and a tour of the car, notably the charging devices. “You can use the card to charge at ESB charging stations. You can find these via an app. The quick chargers will only take around 30 minutes to charge.” 

The cost of charging varies, he says. “If you use quick charge it is similar to petrol, but if you have a charger installed at home, it can cost as little as €7 to charge,” Cusack said. “As demand increases, charging will become cheaper, as competing companies will enter the home charger market. Photovoltaic panels will also be part of the future of charing.”

Once we had the logistics out of the way, I headed off into morning traffic, enjoying the smooth automatic drive and smaller, race car-like steering wheel. 

I’ve driven an EV once before- in the Alps in Switzerland. I left my light on when I parked and thought I lost precious kilometres. I plugged in the charger at the nearest hotel, but unbeknownst to me, it didn’t connect. It cost me several hours and ‘range anxiety’ as I didn’t know if my car could get me across some of the Alps most famous hairpin corners. 

‘Range anxiety’ – the fear of running out of battery and being stuck, is one of the biggest issues for would-be drivers. “But once you experience charging the car, and get into a routine, it removes your fears,” Cusack explained. 

“I’ve driven it down to zero, just to see what happens,” Derek Reilly, founder of the YouTube channel EV Review informed me. “I don’t advise it, but it still keeps going for a while and there are plenty of bells and whistles to remind you to recharge. I regularly drive to Ballina, Mayo- coast to coast and don’t have to charge.”

Reilly said most people stop for coffee at some point if they drive longer distances, so if they plan ahead, they can fast charge along the way, while charging at home before they go.

But like many urban dwellers, I rent and don’t have access to a home charger. 

I’m not the only one and it puts renters off going EV. But Shane Prendergast, programme manager of Electric Vehicles at the SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) said things are changing. “SEAI have recently introduced funding support for apartment blocks and multi-unit dwellings to alleviate this barrier. If you don’t have a home charger, get in touch with your local authority to find out about community charging options and if their street lamps or car parks will be used.”

For the week I had the car, I drove around North and South Dublin, including a guilt free trip to DCU to pick up my MsC for Climate Change science. Despite not needing to, I charged the car during a shopping trip to Rathmines Tesco, which has two charging stations in its car park. 

I paid €2 for parking, but you get the money off your shopping bill. Obviously on street parking, especially somewhere like Dublin adds huge expense but in most cases, this option won’t be the norm.

I got a lot of attention driving the EV and lots of friends had a look inside and see what it was all about. My daughter loved it and even wanted to swap our Toyota Corolla for it.

Most of us can’t afford one yet, but when the second hand market allows, and supply is increased, it’s good to know how they work. It’s also handy for holiday rentals to know what EVs are about.  

But there are still some burning questions and here are some answers:

They don’t suit rural dwellers: In most cases rural dwellers have more space, so they can install a charger, for which you can receive a grant of €600. 80% of charging is done at home.

“Range anxiety: It is still considered one of the main barriers to EV uptake, says Shane Prendergast. But there’s no need to fear it. “The EVs on the market now are capable of achieving range highs of greater than 500 km to a single charge and on average 350km.” According to CSO data, the average distance travelled in a day by people is under 30km. Most people don’t charge their petrol car every day, so they won’t charge their EV every day either. “You don’t stop to charge, you charge when you’re stopped.”

It’s too expensive. Because there is no big second hand market on EVs, they are pricey.  Like anything new, it’s expensive at first and it does get cheaper as production goes mainstream. Work out how much it costs to charge them, and you will see savings. 

No charging infrastructure. Ok so most people who rent will have to charge their car elsewhere. But there are ways around it. The government is planning to expand charging infrastructure across the country with a €100 million investment. Residential neighbourhood charging and destination charging centres at sports clubs, and unused car parks will also occur.

Will the batteries end up in the landfill? There’s a myth that batteries won’t last or the EV uses rare natural resources. This is not true, says Reilly. “EV batteries are expensive. So old batteries get reused. They either get installed into older vehicles, used to generate electricity in buildings or recycled. Electric vehicle manufacturers are making big investments to give car batteries a new lease of life.”

How will the government help? Because motor tax is calculated on the emissions of the vehicle, electric vehicles are at the lowest tax band costing just €120 per year. The grant for new cars will be reduced from €5000 to €3000, car sales are still high this year. A grant up to €600 is available for home installation. Costs for home chargers are around €1200. 

 

EV Do’s and Don’ts

 

Do: Take an EV for a test drive. You may not buy now, but test it out and see how you feel. Also learn how to charge it and make sure it’s actually charging.

Don’t wait for bio fuel or hydrogen. “They are very niche and early sage. We have the resources for electric cars now, and in Ireland, although still behind Europe, the infrastructure in Ireland is good and getting better,” Reilly said.

Don’t panic. Plan and don’t panic. The range is ever increasing and you can charge at home. “I don’t think I have ever heard of someone having a petrol station in their home but you can charge your EV from the comfort of your house,” Prendergast said. 

Do rethink your maths:

Cost is always a big conversation point. But it’s important to incorporate the running costs savings and look more at a total cost of ownership of the vehicle.

Do buy an electric compact mini SUV before you buy a gas guzzling diesel or petrol SUV. By buying a gas guzzling SUV, you cancel the benefit of an EV. They are 20% more polluting then regular cars and let’s face it, many buyers live in salubrious parts of town and use it to drop the kids to school or to go to the gym.

“Don’t drive to extinction, drive electric.” 

The Peugeot e2008 compact SUV costs €36,750. It is available from €314 per month with a 5 year warranty and APR from 4.65%.For more information on EVs, go to SEAI, www.seai.ie, www.drivingelectric.ie, www.peugeot.ie andwww.gowan motors.ie and @EVReviewIreland.