THE latest announcement of swingeing increases for public charging of electric cars surely prompts urgent intervention by the Government.
Environment Minister Eamon Ryan is said to be looking at ways of easing the burden on motorists generally. But the sooner the better, in particular, for owners of electric vehicles (EVs).
Otherwise, with increase after increase, one of the headline reasons for buying an electric car in the first place - low running costs compared with diesel or petrol vehicles – will be greatly diminished.
Two severe increases for using the ESB’s public charging network – one of up to 53pc last May, one ranging up to 52pc due on December 20 - will have people thinking twice about just how much they would really save on electricity even allowing for price rises in petrol and diesel.
Particularly hit will be the thousands of EV owners who don't have a home charger due to where they live, and/or what type of property they live in. They rely on public charging.
So we need to be careful we don’t create a situation where the relative cost advantage of EVs is further eroded by the perceived high cost of powering them.
The ESB, for their part, say they are striving to keep prices as low and competitive as possible but due to the ‘considerable’ increases in the wholesale cost of electricity they need to increase the price of charging across the network to maintain the level of service.
And realistically as things now stand, we can’t discount the possibility, indeed probability, of more increases. So something needs to be done immediately.
The ESB says it has to maintain its cost base; it is in the business of profitably providing power (though it looks like the government will look for a windfall tax on electricity companies).
Against that backdrop, the Government wants a vastly magnified uptake of hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles so that we have nearly a million of them on our roads by 2030 to reduce harmful tailpipe emissions. It is part of our climate action plan.
That 2030 target has been questioned and ridiculed almost since its inception but it, and the government that framed it, will be even more doubted if rampant price increases in electricity costs continue to undermine more modest expectations of EV ownership.
I know there is pressure on the Government to lessen the impact on the cost of living and travelling – the increase in tolls is an example.
But there is only one way to minimise the impact of severe public-charger increases and that is for the government to sanction support for EV owners - many of whom have taken a leap of faith to buy an electric car in the first place.
Let’s be clear here. Electric cars cost a lot more than conventional vehicles to buy in the first place. The selling point has been how that extra outlay can be recouped through lower fuel and running costs over quite a long period.
The Government’s action plan is one of great hope, challenge and optimism.
Sometimes – and this is one of them – the Government has to take on the challenge and find a way to show how seriously it takes the impact of the newly-announced increases on drivers and, ultimately, on the environment.