Thursday 23 January 2020

Eddie Cunningham: 'Climate strategy is a game-changer for drivers - life on the road will never be the same again'


The strategy represents the first profound reality check for most motorists. Photo: Arthur Carron
The strategy represents the first profound reality check for most motorists. Photo: Arthur Carron
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

One thing you can be sure of: you'll never look at your car the same way again. Not after you've heard what the Government has in store for you in the climate strategy.

If your car is a diesel, you'll most likely wonder if you'll ever buy another; if your fuel and road tax bills are going to cripple you; if the car is worth hundreds less as a trade-in overnight. Much the same goes if you have a petrol. Not so much if you own a hybrid - at least for a few years more.

But if you are in the current minority and own an electric vehicle (EV), suddenly you're entitled to glow in the warmth of truly belonging to this great brave new world.

Granted, so much of what is in the plan that affects motorists does not appear to be timed, nor costed. Where, for example, will revenue come from to replace the billions of Exchequer income from Vat, VRT and excise duty on fossil-fuel cars?

Will we continue to get €10,000 in VRT rebates and SEAI grants to encourage electric-car buying? Where is the money coming from to fund this great transition?

These are obvious and vital questions that must be answered clearly and cogently because the plan will struggle without economic and political viability underpinning it.

But from you, the motorist's point of view, that is of little relevance at this stage of proceedings. The fact of the matter is that unless you own a hybrid or electric car, you are going to, at best, pay a lot more for the privilege of owning a fossil-fuel vehicle and, at worst, not be allowed to drive into or through some towns.

You will be tempted by a scrappage scheme to abandon your internal combustion engine, by generous grants (for now anyway) - while being punished heavily if you don't avail of them. Basically they don't want you on the road unless you're in an EV.

However draconian that may seem, we are, for the first time as a country, looking like we have a 'green' transport plan. It is about time.

We are little more than 10 years from the promised deadline (2030) when only new electric cars will be allowed to be sold here (granting NCTs will cease from 2045). As such, the strategy represents the first profound reality check for most motorists. Take, for example, those thinking of buying a new 192-reg from July 1 - under two weeks away.

It is a case of looking at their decision like they have never done before. They may be asking themselves what are they to buy now? It's the same question the rest of us will have to answer over the coming months and years.

Some of those thinking of a July 2019 purchase will just hold off; others will take the electric-car plunge (that's if they can get one because they are in short supply); and some will rush to buy their last diesel or petrol before the cars become even more expensive.

Diesel is where the plan is unequivocal: it wants it dead, despite its role in reducing CO2 - it's cleaner than petrol on emissions harmful to the environment, but worse in emitting health-harming NOx.

As a result, I can see a country v city conflict arising around the fuel as people's needs in either constituency can be quite different.

Many rural dwellers need diesel engined-vehicles to cover long commute/business distances and as part of their farming and everyday lives. They do so in the absence, as yet, of as capable or affordable an EV alternative or a proper public transport system.

A car scrappage scheme is perfect for the urban dweller switching from an old petrol VW Polo to a Nissan Leaf. But is it as feasible for someone who needs a large SUV to tow trailers and can't reach to the €80,000-plus for a new electric one? Time will tell, as will the proliferation of choice - but don't hold your breath.

Ultimately it is going to happen in some shape or form: a charging network capable of catering for 800,000 EVs is charted for 2030 and local authorities will provide 200 on-street public charges a year.

This is a game-changing moment. So take another look at that car of yours. Because it is a different proposition now than it was a week ago.

Irish Independent

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