Sunday 22 September 2019

Transport Minister Shane Ross eligible for petrol mileage expenses on new electric car

Ross claimed €10,000 in State supports to buy €50,000 vehicle

Plugging in: Shane Ross with his new Hyundai Kona EV on the streets of Dundrum in Dublin
Plugging in: Shane Ross with his new Hyundai Kona EV on the streets of Dundrum in Dublin
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Transport Minister Shane Ross took advantage of grants and tax rebates to buy an electric car - and can still claim civil-service mileage rates intended for less efficient petrol cars.

Mr Ross, who drives a €50,000 Hyundai Kona electric vehicle, bought it with State supports of more than €10,000, which brought the price down below €40,000.

The Independent Alliance TD, whose salary is nearly €170,000 per year, is one of the first cabinet ministers to buy an electric vehicle.

He is refusing to say whether he will claim public-service mileage rates, to which he continues to be entitled despite having a non-petrol car.

He has already claimed over €31,000 in mileage expenses since he became a Government minister three years ago, including €13,000 last year.

There is no specific mileage rate in the civil service for electrical vehicles or hybrids, meaning EV drivers can claim mileage as if they are driving a petrol car, even though EVs are much cheaper to run.

The only other cabinet minister known to have bought an environmentally friendly car is the minister responsible for climate change, Richard Bruton. He has claimed nearly €2,000 in mileage this year.

Mr Bruton bought a Hyundai Ioniq plug-in hybrid that runs on both petrol and electricity last year. His department said he claimed the lowest available mileage rate.

The Department of Public Expenditure (DPER) said in a recent spending review that the State offered some of the "most generous supports in the world" for EVs. But it added that such supports were "regressive in nature, in that they tend to benefit the wealthier in society".

Mr Ross, who was this week forced to remove a tweet promoting an EV charging point that doesn't work, recently goaded Green Party leader Eamon Ryan about his failure to buy an electric car.

Mr Ryan said he drove a 2003 bio-diesel car and keeping it for longer could be just as environmentally friendly as replacing it with an EV.

He added that he intended to buy an EV in the future.

"We need system change," he said. "We'd be better off working on a network of charging infrastructure rather than doing this 'look at me and others who aren't as good as me'.We're going to have to wean ourselves off grants as a way of rolling out EVs."

Mr Bruton's office said he took advice from DPER after buying his hybrid car.

"The minister's office made an inquiry to DPER regarding the correct rate of mileage when the car was purchased," said a spokesman.

"[He] was advised to claim using the lowest rate band. At present, there is no mileage rate in the public sector for electric cars or plug-in hybrid electric cars. The minister has claimed a total of €1,897.58 since January 1. The claim represents only part of the mileage actually travelled."

The Government has no plans to introduce a civil-service mileage rate for hybrid or EVs until the middle of 2020.

Mr Ross's spokesman confirmed "grants are applicable to those who purchase EVs", meaning the minister benefited from a €5,000 Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland grant and a €5,000 exemption from vehicle registration tax. Mr Ross can also claim €600 towards the cost of a home charging unit.

Mr Bruton and Mr Ross are the only two of 15 cabinet members confirmed to have environmentally friendly cars.

Irish Independent

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