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No road tax or tolls on electric cars ­- FF plan


Micheal Martin

Micheal Martin

Micheal Martin

Electric car owners will be given free electricity and have their tax and toll charges waived for five years under a plan set to be unveiled by Fianna Fail.

The party's general election manifesto will pledge a suite of incentives for motorists who purchase vehicles run on electricity.

While the number of electric vehicles sold has been increasing steadily in recent years, it remains a tiny proportion of the overall fleet.

The Government wants 250,000 cars to be powered by renewable energy by 2020.

But figures compiled by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) show that just 457 units have been registered in 2015 to date.

This compares to more than 88,000 diesel passenger vehicles and 33,500 petrol vehicles.

Cars cost an average of €20,000 (after €5,000 grant).

The Government already offers financial incentives in the form of grants to motorists looking to purchase electric vehicles. The grants are in place until the end of 2016.

However, SIMI has called for the system to be extended for up to five more years.

Aside from the government's measures to support electric car owners, the ESB has pledged to ramp up the supply of charging points in the coming months.

The semi-state body wants to put in place 2,000 home charge points, 1,500 public charge points nationwide, and 30 fast points, which allow owners to charge their vehicles in a matter of minutes.

Fianna Fail's election manifesto, which is set to be unveiled in the coming months, will propose a series of new sweeteners in a bid to boost numbers.

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The plan will pledge to offer free electricity to drivers as part of a partnership approach with the ESB. And the manifesto will also pledge to waive car tax and toll charges for a period of five years.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent last night, Fianna Fail's transport spokesman Timmy Dooley said the plan is part of the overall effort to reduce carbon emissions.

"This is not the golden bullet for achieving carbon reductions but it is certainly a start. We need to be bold and imaginative and realise that we have an opportunity here to change the way people travel," Mr Dooley said.

"There has been a very poor uptake of electrical cars to date and by offering these ­incentives, we are very ­confident the numbers will grow," he added.

He said that his party is also examining measures aimed at encouraging Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann to invest in greater numbers of electric vehicles.

Mr Dooley said his party also considered a proposal which would permit electric car users to use bus lanes at certain times in a bid to make the vehicles more attractive.

However, the measure will not be included in the manifesto for fear it could be abused by drivers.

SIMI Director Tom Cullen said his organisation supports the idea of free tolls and other financial incentives, several of which were proposed in the organisation's pre-budget submission.

He said that public perception of electric cars is changing but that more supports are necessary if the numbers of vehicles on the road are to increase significantly.

Mr Cullen said that one of the greatest challenges is giving security to manufacturers so that they ramp up the supply of electric vehicles.

"Manufacturers are pausing over the number of vehicles they produce because they want certainty. If the grants which are currently in place until the end of 2016, were extended, that would have a real positive impact," Mr Cullen told the Sunday Independent.

Mr Cullen said that the proposal to reduce or abolish toll charges for owners would particularly benefit those who travel short commuter distances.

"You have many drivers who are driving across the M50 every day but they are only driving from northside to southside or vice versa," he said.

"If tolls were reduced, it would go a long way to increasing the number of electric cars on the road.

The SIMI boss said that one of the biggest tests in the future will be whether facilities are in place for motorists to charge their vehicles at work.

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