Wednesday 16 October 2019

The dream versus reality of 'electric' car drivers in Ireland

Your views: Electric cars

EV motoring
EV motoring

Last week's report, by Cathal Doyle, about trying to travel across Ireland in an electric vehicle prompted a huge response. Here are three of the most representative.

* I have experienced Cathal's frustrations and more. I love my Nissan Leaf. My only issues are with charging it whenever I travel more than 100km.

Last weekend my family and I decided to go to Birr Castle for an event. I checked the distance on Google maps and compared the proposed route on the ESB charging point map online. I saw there is a fast-charger at Kilbeggan and a slow-charging point in a car park beside Birr Castle. Perfect as I will overnight in Birr and be in the castle grounds for a few hours.

At Kilbeggan there is a BMW plugged in. The charger is free, but the system cannot fast-charge two cars at the same time. I wait 20 minutes. When I'm sure I'll have enough power to get to Birr, I leave.

There is constant mental arithmetic. If I haven't driven the route before, I worry about hills. I watch my speed like a hawk. Are you feeling cold? Put on a jumper because I'm not using the heating - it uses up too much battery.

We drive into the car park with the slow-charging point in Birr. But it is not lit up. I hold my ESB charge point access card to the screen, but there's nothing. I call the helpline number and am told this charging point has been decommissioned. I checked it on the ESB map and it had showed it was functioning.

The guy from the ESB says sorry, but it is out of his hands. It has been decommissioned. Nothing he can do. He advises me to drive 20km to the nearest charging point in Roscrea. I have only about 30km range. Is it uphill to Roscrea? I have a table booked for dinner. Should my family go ahead without me?

I choose to worry about it the next day, but it keeps me awake that night. Can I trust the information on the ESB charging point map?

On our way into Birr Castle next morning, we pass the car park. A Leaf is sitting beside ours charging. I plug my car in and call the ESB. I'm told this charging point has not, in fact, been decommissioned at all: it just has a new charging point identification code that still has to be stuck on it. I lost a night's sleep because someone hadn't stuck a new sticker on the side of the machine.

The Government wants us to buy more electric cars. I believe most other EV owners would be happy to pay a reasonable amount for the electricity if it meant having a reliable charging network.

Until this is remedied and there is a populous network of fast-charging points, people are not going to opt for EVs.

* I own a 151 Nissan Leaf, 24 kWh battery. It has a realistic range of approx 125km. It is a great car to drive - reliable and nippy. My daily journey varies from 42km to 55km, so I charge it every second day.

Because I don't have a private driveway, I rely on public charge points and I haven't spent a cent of electricity for three-and-a-half years. I charge near work (caveat: I have a parking disc through my work and I pay €500 a year for it).

All the negatives are captured in Cathal's excellent article, which reflects the current day-to-day reality of any significant journeys.

* I agree with everything in the article. I'm one-and-a-half years on my first EV - a Hyundai Ioniq (about 220km real world). The Government hasn't a clue. It brags about 1,200 chargers. Fewer than 60 are fast chargers, and that's the problem. Today we need an additional 100 fast chargers. We would gladly pay.

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