Investment in electric charging facilities needs to come from both the Government and forecourt operators, Brian Donaldson, CEO of The Maxol Group, has said.
The company owns 115 service stations across the island of Ireland. It has a further 127 stations in its dealer network.
“We think the investment in the grid and the cabling to our sites should be for the ESB, funded by the Government,” Mr Donaldson said.
The cost of installing the charging facilities should then fall on the forecourt owners.
“I don’t think it’s fair to expect the private sector to run cabling for three kilometres, then put in a sub-station to develop a network, because that business case doesn’t stack up,” he said.
“While it’s right to have ambitions, there needs to be a roadmap in terms of how you achieve those ambitions and who has to do what and who funds what.”
Where there is power coming to the forecourt sites, the cost of putting in electric-vehicle chargers could be anything “up to €400,000 to develop it out”, Mr Donaldson said.
In terms of how far off the country is in developing enough infrastructure for the widespread use of electric vehicles, Mr Donaldson said he doesn’t know.
“I think no one knows at the moment,” he said.
Mr Donaldson also called for a change to retail planning guidelines, which limit forecourt shop sizes in the Republic of Ireland to 100 square metres. “There needs to be a re-write of this,” he said.
Last year Maxol recorded a gross profit before exceptional items of €17.1m, a fall of 7.5pc on 2019.
The company was hit by Covid-19 restrictions including travel limits, which resulted in a 70pc drop in demand for fuel at the start of the pandemic. Demand for fuel is now back to 95pc of pre-pandemic levels.
While the first five months of this year were “very tough”, Mr Donaldson expects an improved performance on 2020, helped by “very tight control on overheads”.
Turnover at the company is now split almost evenly between food and fuel.
“Prior to the pandemic it was probably about 60pc-40pc in favour of fuel.
"The objective is to get to 60pc-40pc in favour of non-fuel,” Mr Donaldson said.
Meanwhile, the company has announced a €20m investment programme for next year across a number of sites including Sandyford, Castletroy, Kilkenny, Clarecastle and Drogheda.