Going green: 7 reasons to buy electric vehicles (and which questions to ask)
Greener Living: As part of our special on easy ways to tread softly on the planet, Irish Independent Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham says you can save money and help fix the planet by taking the green line on electric vehicles
The clear message from government is it's time to think electric vehicle (EV) for you, your family and business.
You won't be able to buy a new petrol or diesel car in 10 years' time. Right now that spells good news for your pocket and our planet.
So here are some environmental and financial reasons to buy one soon:
✦ EVs have zero emissions; driving one does no harm to the environment.
✦ They attract serious tax incentives: €10,000 off a new car (VRT refund, SEAI grant), low road tax, no BIK for most owners etc.
✦ EVs are becoming more affordable and choice is growing.
✦ Your current petrol/diesel car will cost more to buy and run.
✦ A full EV charge-at-home can cost as little as €2.
✦ Battery technology is improving; solid-state batteries are being developed which will revolutionise range and power.
✦ And we're promised a better public charging structure. Result: reduced range anxiety overall.
Just remember though:
✦ Despite incentives, EVs are still expensive, scarce and don't suit everyone.
✦ You will soon pay for public charging.
✦ High levels of harmful emissions arise during EV production (batteries especially).
✦ Many makers insist EV production will soon be 'carbon neutral'. But some experts say it will take years of EV driving to equalise emissions involved in production.
So what can you do?
Start by asking your dealer for the overall environmental impact (from start of production to end of lifespan) of the EVs on sale. Factor it into your buying decision.
✦ Ask your power provider to positively discriminate for electricity from green sources for charging: driving an EV on coal-based electricity is counterproductive.
✦ Lobby generally for cleaner electricity production.
Your biggest dilemma is when to buy.
Get on board now? Or wait for greater choice and lower prices - and the risk of lower incentives tapering off as volume increases.
Either way it is time to start some serious thinking and planning about switching in the near future.
THE BIG QUESTION: Can we live without owning a car?
Have you seen the number of cars with just the driver on board? Ridiculous. If there were proper incentives and restrictions people could/would car-share more. Imagine if every car carried two instead of one, you'd halve the number of cars and seriously cut logjams and emissions.
Public transport is stretched to cope with its current capacities. But for real progress on greener private transport, it needs to be vastly expanded and integrated. So people can park and ride in their droves, for example.
Greater use of pay-as-you-use GoCar-type facilities - especially in urban areas - makes sense as you use a car only when you need it.
With a small bit of planning you can do money-saving deals with rental companies that exclude the need for owning a car at all. No tax, insurance or repair bills.
Hydrogen is regarded as the ultimate long-term zero emission fuel with plans already afoot in Britain and Europe to build more hydrogen stations. It is heavily designed towards larger vehicles such as trucks and vans. But it works in cars too - I've driven and refilled a hydrogen-powered car. However, we are talking long, long term.
For now, we've all got to become more aware of how our driving is affecting the environment. That involves more than just buying greener cars. It involves how we drive them too. Go easy on the accelerator.