Hugh O'Connell: 'Ross and his cabinet colleagues need to appreciate the difficulties of making switch'
Shane Ross doesn't help himself sometimes. What should have been a good news story about a cabinet minister setting an example for his colleagues by buying a fully electric car has turned into a bit of a public-relations disaster.
First, Mr Ross unnecessarily slagged off Green Party leader Eamon Ryan for failing to buy his own EV.
Then he posted a tweet hitting out at those, like Mr Ryan, who say there aren't enough charging points around the country, with a picture of him posing beside one in Marlay Park in south Dublin. "Who said there is a shortage of chargers for electric vehicles?" proclaimed Mr Ross.
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The only problem is that the charging point doesn't work - and never has.
Mr Ross's barb at Mr Ryan and call on others to go electric seems particularly unfair given how much it can actually cost to do so.
Anyone who has explored the possibility of switching to an electric or hybrid - or has already done so - knows it isn't cheap, despite the State supports available.
Even with generous grants and tax rebates, a recent government spending review found these tend to benefit the wealthy in society. In Mr Ross's case his new Hyundai Kona EV retails at around €50,000 but with a grant and tax rebate he is able to bring the cost down by more than €10,000.
That still leaves a price tag of nearly €40,000 for the new car, a figure beyond many people now being encouraged to go electric or hybrid to save the planet.
Mr Ross, like anyone else going electric, is also entitled to a €600 grant to install a charging point in his home.
But unlike everyone else, Mr Ross and all other ministers are still able to claim public-service mileage at existing rates - even for cars that have no requirement for petrol.
This currently works out at 38c a kilometre, the lowest available rate. By contrast, HM Revenue and Customs in the UK has issued guidance stating that the mileage rate for an EV should be just 4p a mile (approximately 2.77c/km).
The Government plans to introduce new civil-service mileage rates for EVs next year, and these rates will apply to ministers.
But in the meantime members of the Cabinet who join Mr Ross and Climate Change Minister Richard Bruton in switching to more environmentally friendly cars can make use of a patently unfit-for-purpose mileage scheme.
Some will find this galling at a time we are told we must switch to electric in order to meet a target of having a million EVs on the road by 2030. A proper scrappage scheme might do more to achieve this lofty objective.