I was interviewed by the Irish Examiner
As part of my role as chair of the Irish EV Owners Association, I do regular interviews and discussions with journalists. I thought it would be valuable to jot down some of what we discussed in a pretty wide-ranging 30+ minute conversation. So god knows which bits she'll quote me on!
This is a rough translation of the conversation, which was a great conversation to have. It's not a recorded quote or anything, so the article will likely differ. The journalist's goal is to write a piece on the 2035 ruling from the EU on banning fossil vehicle sales.
What does IEVOA do/stand for?
This was the intro bit, but instead of discussing my role as chair, I focused more on the transition of the association. It's going from something of a car club when I initially joined (about 5 years ago) where men gathered to discuss drag coefficients for their tiny batteries to something more concerned with the just transition to an electrified fleet. Both for personal use and commercial operations.
The top of the funnel for EV purchases isn't just healthy. It's supremely healthy. We've blitzed past the early adopter phase and now into mass adoption. There would be more EVs on the road if supply chain was healthier. The issue today is how those cars are being deployed. Simply replacing fossil cars with battery tech for the same lifestyle and adoption curve isn't going to work. EV buses, delivery vans and electric bikes are important here. And the assciation wants to be at the crux of that message.
Is the 2035 fossil sale ban feasible?
Yes. And it's a compromise on the original 2030 proposals. But as I said above, the adoption curve and top of the funnel for new car sales is totally fine. The 2035 deadline really allows for new car sales to settle in (no one's going to buy a family-orientated fossil car in 2032 knowing what's coming) and start to foster a second-hand market, which is what's missing today. A "just transition" can't ignore older folks, people less able/willing to spend on a new car, etc.
The real issue will be infrastructure. Is Ireland, or any country outside of Norway, truly capable of supporting a 100% EV fleet? Right now in Ireland, we have stories where big matches where fans travel across the country are stuck at lengthy queues to charge because there's only a few chargers on routes. Just ask Kerry or Galway fans from the All-Ireland final last year.
And the government isn't working on ownership here. There's no ability for them to own fossil forecourts, but there is an opportunity for them to have more power/control on how we deploy public charging infrastructure. Particularly with sustainability in mind.
EVs present lots of value. Quieter streets, cleaner air, etc. But the government could really lean in by ensuring EVs are being charged with energy generated through wind or solar. Something Ireland has a huge opportunity with. Having a national fleet of EVs is an enormous win. And running an EV is one of the few things a household can do to dramatically improve it's sustainability. Imagine if we didn't charge those cars with imported gas and instead with domestic solar propped up by national wind generation. What a story.
Is the infrastructure ready?
No. It's inadequate in Ireland. It's inadequate for today's demand, let alone future demand or a future where 100% of all vehicles are electric. Norway benchmarks it's grid against the peak demand of rapid charging. As of a year ago (when I last researched this), that was 3,500 simultaneous rapid charges. If that happened in Ireland, which has similar population denisty and overall population numbers, the grid would collapse.
Moreover, we're too reliant on on-street parking options, slow chargers in a few car parks (dimly lit, not accessible for wheelchair users etc.) and no joined-up thinking. ZEVI has published a good strategy but that's all it is; a strategy. There's no indication of what any of it means for drivers, businesses or other road users, who'll implement any element of the strategy and what action there can or will be as a result.
Motorways need to have rapid charging all over them, both on-journey and at the ends. And not 2 cables serving all cars. We need 8-10 stalls similar to SuperChargers. Or, you know, fossil forecourts today. They need to be well lit, secure, safe and with a roof for weather protection while also serving vulnerable users (wheelchair users, parents with babies, etc.). That's a good strategy. Even better, don't even allow someone to do anything else. Why are we allowing stupid slow boxes from random providers into car parks? That's just going to lead to tech debt in future as these companies go bust or don't maintain their chargers.
All of this is knowing that most people (circa 90%) charge at home. But that's just where we are on the adoption curve. If you're buying a car and have a driveway or means to charge at home, it makes infinitely more sense to get an EV than a fossil equivalent.
What's stopping 100% adoption today?
Infrastructure is one. It's difficult to buy an EV if your landlord won't install a charger at home or in a shared car park. Or if you travel a lot for work, for example, and always see queues at the mediocre public infrastructure options.
The other, and the bigger one, is cost. Today, EVs are about the same, if not a little less, than their fossil equivalents across the board. We'll see that reduce more as EV production costs drop below fossil costs over the next 24 months, if not sooner, thanks to huge investment by OEMs, new entrants to the market (particularly from China) and a settling of the supply chain.
The final one is just transition. We need a decade of leeway for EV adoption to really be the mainstay. It likely will be soon for new cars. But we need enough time for those new cars to be sold into the second-hand market, giving access to sustainable transport to everyone.