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Ireland aims to boost 'e-car' sales

THE Government is to unveil a package of special incentives to promote electric car sales after less than 700 were sold in Ireland in five years.

The package is expected to include enhanced levies to further lower electric car costs as well as operating rewards including free street parking while charging as well as priority lane use.

Coupled with efforts by major manufacturers including Renault, Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi and BMW to extend 'e-car' range, the new package aims to ensure that one-in-ten new cars sold by 2022 in Ireland will be electric powered.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, an e-car ESB brand ambassador, said the Government was determined to exploit "the huge potential of the sector."

"The technology is starting to deliver that (better range). But we only have 600 or 700 electric cars in the country and I think that is going to dramatically change over the next couple of years," he said.

Ireland ranked as the worst of 17 EU member states in 2013 for the take-up of e-cars.

A total of just 58 electric (not including hybrid) cars were sold in Ireland last year compared to 23,000 in the Netherlands.

Almost 75,000 petrol and diesel-fuelled cars were sold in Ireland last year.

Renault, which boasts the greatest range of e-cars, said it still expected more than 200,000 electric and hybrid cars on Irish roads by 2022.

Mr Coveney said the Government's new strategy will be to promote e-cars via special urban hubs.

Cork will be one of Ireland's first e-car hubs and the Government is now working with business, transport and local authority groups to agree a support package for the use of electric cars.

This will include a dramatically increased number of e-car charging points.

"You will see some very big initiatives over the next couple of months to promote electric transport and I think that is good in terms of emissions but also good in other ways mainly in terms of the cost of motoring," he said.

The ESB calculate that an Irish motorist driving 15,000km per annum will have average electricity re-charging costs of €120 - roughly 15pc of the comparable petrol cost.

Mr Coveney has vowed to "practice what I preach" and, after using a Nissan Leaf for several months, is now using a hybrid-powered Mitsubishi Outlander.

The Government acknowledged that range concerns have to date hampered sales of electric vehicles.

"There is a range now of over 100km which is more than most people drive each day," Mr Coveney said.

"If you do long distances you can look at hybrid vehicles. The financing of an e-car isn't as expensive as some people might think."