Sunday 9 December 2018

Could Ireland ban petrol and diesel cars? Your questions answered

Stock picture
Stock picture

Cillian Sherlock

The UK and France are planning to ban sales of petrol and diesel by 2040. Norway says 2025. So what are the Irish government’s plans?

Transport Minister Shane Ross has already detailed the Department’s vision to get rid of fossil fuelled cars by 2050 and here’s everything you need to know:

How realistic is this?

The Department of Transport has laid out a policy ambition to have all new cars and vans sold in Ireland to be zero-emissions capable by 2030, with a further aim to decarbonise transport by 2050.

That 2030 deadline also involves seeing 800,000 electric vehicles on our roads, according to their National Framework on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure.

However, their past record on such goals may raise doubts.

How many electric cars are there in Ireland?

A target of 50,000 electric vehicles on our roads by 2020 was previously set in 2014, but in reality uptake has been much lower with indications showing that the figure will be only 8,000.

There are 2.5 million vehicles on our roads and despite the availability of VRT relief, lower motor tax rates and a grant of up to €5,000, only 2,200 are electric.

Is the technology ready?

The Department believes low uptake rates could change due to advancements in low carbon alternative technologies.

They say improvements in these technologies will continue to make alternative fuel solutions more affordable to consumers.

“The biggest obstacle preventing consumers adopting electric vehicles in Ireland is range anxiety, which is the fear of running out of power far from the nearest charging point or destination,” according to a representative from the Department of Finance.

As things stand, diesels and petrols could be banned in the North but available in the Republic. What would that mean for post-Brexit cross-Border trade, traffic, and the motor industry down here? Stock picture
As things stand, diesels and petrols could be banned in the North but available in the Republic. What would that mean for post-Brexit cross-Border trade, traffic, and the motor industry down here? Stock picture

“Manufacturers are keen to address these fears through increasing battery life, however, for long distance driving the technology will need to be proven before large scale adoption,” Brian Meenan added.

Does Ireland have the right infrastructure for this?

The Department of Transport argue that Ireland already has strong characteristics for electric vehicles including a relatively short distance between our cities, a mild climate and a single electricity network company.

Ireland has over 1,200 charging points including one in every town with a population of over 1,500.

In response to the EU establishing a minimum provision standard for refuelling infrastructure, Minister Shane Ross said infrastructure will not be a barrier for their commitments to greater uptake of low emission vehicles (LEVs).

“This Framework provides a supportive environment for suppliers and consumers alike, and provides increased confidence and reassurance in our commitment to this emerging market,” Minister Ross said.

What does this mean for motor tax and fuel excise?

As the Government intends to become a leader in electric vehicles, a Low Emission Vehicles taskforce has been established to make recommendations ahead of the next Budget.

This taskforce is expected to make recommendations on the role of motor taxation and fuel excise while the Tax Strategy Group will also publish a paper on Environmental and Energy Taxes later this summer.

The recommendations are likely to consider potential reductions in revenue from fuel excise, on which the Government made over €2bn last year (Diesel: €1.447bn; petrol: €721m).

Large-scale adoption of electric vehicles could also have an impact on revenue sourced from motor tax (approximately €1bn annually) which has been calculated on CO2 emissions since July 2008.

Minister Shane Ross
Minister Shane Ross

“While a move to electric vehicles should have an impact on mineral oil duties the figures show that significant reductions are some way off,” Mr Meenan added.

Some other potential policy instruments being analysed by the taskforce include: reduced charges or exemptions on toll roads for EVs; availability and focus of benefit-in-kind relief; EV public parking charges; current public procurement policy; and the effectiveness of the current incentives in place.

How will this help the environment?

The ambitious framework will also help towards tackling the Government’s commitments to climate change policies.

Currently, Ireland has the fourth highest dependency on crude oil in Europe and projections show that greenhouse emissions from the transport sector are set to increase by 10-16% over the 2014-2020 period.

All of our oil is imported and this cost €4.4bn in 2014 alone.

The Department states that achieving the goal of 800,000 electric vehicles by 2030 could result in a reduction of CO2 emissions by 7 megatonnes.

Minister Ross said this will “actively set Ireland on the right path to decarbonisation and cleaner air.”

Read More: Eddie Cunningham: UK has signalled its direction on fossil fuel cars - we mustn't be left in the slow lane
Read More:  End of road for petrol and diesel

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