Friday 17 November 2017

We need real political leadership and unity or we'll stumble into an electric car twilight zone

Here's what we need to do - now

Eddie Cunningham Motoring Editor

I'VE been driving a good few electric cars of late and I've come to something of a harsh conclusion.

We as a country, society, legislative entity - call us what you like - are stumbling our way into an electric vehicle (EV) twilight zone.

I see strong evidence of a patchwork, band-aid Irish solution to an Irish problem.

I'm not discounting the excellent work and measures already in place - rebates, BIK concessions and 1,200 or so charging points that we had up and going quickly. It was a wonderful start and full credit to all concerned.

But our collective battery-pack is, with one or two exceptions, going a bit flat, I fear. Have we let the whole thing slow and slip? Out in the real world things can be a bit ragged. More than ragged if you take my experiences over the past two weeks, where I could have been left high and dry.

That's the sort of thing that undermines credibility and confidence in an electric car network.

Two weeks ago it was Galway; last week it was Dublin. It was maddening and frustrating to be told by those running the show that there was nothing they could do to help me. It was like pulling into a service station and being told all pumps were out of order. Only there's likely to be another petrol station nearby - that is not always the case with electric.

The sooner someone - I don't care who - takes control of the whole shooting gallery, the better. For example, we have all sorts of nozzles and cables and obscure buttons at charging points. I think we need to make it simpler. Manufacturers have a big role to play in this too. Is it asking too much that you or I can just pull up, plug in and charge?

We also need far more charging points. I don't care about having too many. Until they are widely visible, available, easy and quick to use, only the early adopters (no pun intended) and genuine enthusiasts will take up EV driving. That's not what should be happening.

We need real political leadership and unity. We need to be told, for example, what charging is going to cost us.

We're at a roundabout and seem to be unsure of which exit to take. You can't have an eCars (established by ESB to roll out the infrastructure) help service telling you there's nothing they can do because your faulty charger is privately owned. Or because your car is a Tesla (with a special adaptor). If they can't help, then someone else should be able to.

Try standing in the biting cold explaining down a helpline for the umpteenth time that, yes, you have everything connected, that you have done this before, that the screen says "initialisation failed" every time. It doesn't matter if it worked earlier for someone else.

Why should the fact I was driving a Tesla (with adaptor), or any other brand for that matter, make any difference?

And what is the point of a whole lot of buttons (see picture above) on charging outlets with no discernible clue about what they are for.

Is that symptomatic of our hit-and-miss approach? Press a button and hope it works. It doesn't sometimes.

Irish Independent

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