National broadcaster mis-informs public on climate

It seems this week has been a hell of a week for RTE, Ireland's national broadcaster. Who, on several occasions through various mediums and shows have decided to go on the offensive against EVs in particular. We've had radio hosts, guests and voxpopuli spout outdated nonsense, lies or poor information on national airwaves. All during the week of COP26, and during a climate emergency.

Earlier today, we spoke to people in Loughrea, Co Galway, asking them will they make the switch to an electric car in the coming years? | More:

— RTÉ News (@rtenews) November 2, 2021

Lets look into the above. Setting aside the fact that no counter-argument was presented by people with actual facts, EV owners (no one contacted the PR inbox of IEVOA), plonking along with shit poor "hot takes" is irritating, mis-informs the public (not the mandate of the state broadcaster) and only serves to set Ireland back in it's goals to become a greener, cleaner society working towards an antitude to the climate emergency through sustainability. And we're an island that can do it.

So let's dig into some of the points made on the video. And to be clear, I do not blame the people in the video for being mis-informed. Especially if they rely on state media to inform them. But I do think RTE should be held more accountible for what they broadcast.

Point one: Distance travelled

We are an island that considers a "long" journey anything above 150km. Looking up the EV database for the UK (there isn't anything as comprehensive for Ireland but we largely have the same cars available), there are only 4 cars I can find that can only do a range of 150km. Dragging it to 250km shows 54 cars. Years ago, at the early stages of EV adoption, battery might have been an issue. But it's not today. And it's absolutely not on a small island like ours.

Most EVs sold today have a range of 250-300km. But moreover, the range issue is something that keeps cropping up, despite our national average distance covered by car being less than 10km, and most being in the 3-5km range. Think of the amount of carbon wasted to get 3km down the road. This may not be an option on dangerous rural roads, but if you're in a city or town, get a bike.

Point two: Charge point accessibility

RTE being useless here didn't probe more, so accessibility could mean ability for folks with disabilities to access charge points or just broad access to charging infrastructure in the country.

Either way, a point can be made here. In terms of access for folks with disabilities, there is a lot of work to be done here. I would tend to agree that this is an issue since charging spaces, unlike forecourt spaces for ICE vehicles, are limited to a single car parking space. Which doesn't account for short cables, various access points for the charger on the car (lack of uniformity or standards) and the limited space between cars for folks in a wheelchair, for example.

In terms of access to infrastructure; Ireland has about one charger for every 7 cars on the island. The speed of charging, availability in busy spots, etc. are all potentially valid points to be made. But this ignores the fact that a huge amount of people in Ireland will primarily rely on a chargepoint at their home to charge the cars.

I recently wrote up a piece on charging infrastructure in Ireland.

Point three: cost of ownership

Looking at the link I shared earlier from EVs, the prices in euro show cheaper cars going for about €25k, adjusting upwards for the Irish market. Obviously that goes up ad infinitum but the relative cost of a new EV is coming down to in/around the cost of owning a new ICE vehicle, with better technical specs, 50kWh batteries (giving long range) and lots of QoL features that an ICE could never have (I still think heating my car before I get into it is a world class experience!).

But the real savings come from running costs, or lack thereof. EVs have effectively no moving parts outside of the wheels and brakes. This means maintenance is very basic. Breakdowns are a lot less likely as the mechanics are less complex, and the majority of repairs (outside of accidents) are for small, easy-to-replace elements like brake pads, lights, etc.

Keep in mind the mechanics of an EV vs an ICE vehicle. Only 17% of the tank capacity in an ICE powered vehicle is used to propel that vehicle forward. In an EV, that's over 60% of the battery energy being used to actually do the job it's intended to do. The lack of waste produced to fill a car is astounding in an EV-to-ICE comparison.

Overall, given the cost of electricity and lack of maintenance versus diesel or petrol, you're looking at almost 75% less running cost for an EV. Split that out over a 5-10 year ownership span of the vehicle and you're in dream territory price-wise.

Point four: the grid to power them

Speaking of electricity, people will point to the grid capacity as well as the recent increases in electricity costs.

Thinking of the costs first, I want to note that the increase should have been met with an increase in the grant to covert homes to have solar PV and/or heat pumps. These should be made to be effectively free, because the benefits are enormous to the individual homes, the grid, the economy and the climate. Turning homes into mini power stations is a great idea. I did it myself and our electric bill plummeted in a home with kids, dogs, 2 working-from-home adults and way too many computers. Moreover, we convert that solar energy into a 5kWh battery which heats the water tank all day long! We're less of a burden on the grid and in future, could contribute to the grid.

More interesting, and absolutely possible, ideas need to be projected. And as part of my role in the Irish EV Owners Association, I have done to various companies, bodies and public representatives. One example is pushing folks onto electric-powered public transport more often. We just don't invest enough there, and with Bus Connects, we need to convert our fleet to electric. Moreover, we need to invest in slow charge car parks to act as park-and-ride destinations around the country. Imagine a fleet of cars from our population, plugged into car parks while their owners are at work. Those cars could act in vehicle-to-grid mode and help supply the grid while it's under most stress: when offices & factories are in production mode.

As a country we've harnessed about 45% of our electricity from renewables in 2021. We should be doing a lot more than that given our weather patterns. Long, bright days between April and October coupled with a seemingly infinite supply of coastal tides and wind; as well as winter storms to harness for grid power. Using gas, oil or other antequated fuel sources for the grid should be used as a backup only while we consider nuclear, either as a national option (to build a plant) or to import as clean energy from our EU friends.

To conclude, this was another example of a national broadcaster deliberately mis-informing the public with poor "hot takes" from a voxpop. These folks are mis-informed, and it's not their fault. Imagine if RTE had set out to inform people, show that the climate emergency we are feeling right now can have resolutions, interesting ones and that new technology is a marvel for our future.

Our goals as a country include having 1m EVs on the road. Our incentives are pathetic and force conversations like this one as people think long and hard, rightly, about where they put their money. Any doubt in their minds will divert them away from an EV because most folks only buy a car a few times in their lives.

Our incentives on adopting renewables for the home are abjectly worse. Getting solar PV, heat pumps or similar is something an individual either has to inherit or spend far too much on themselves. Which is ridiculous given the emergency we're in, broad wealth our state has and the long-term benefits provided by turning homes and buildings into mini power plants, running on renewables.

But moreover, public services are doing very little to lead the way here. Where are the Garda cars, ambulances, buses and even politicians' cars showing that they've adopted EVs? A lack of leadership is obvious from our state broadcaster, but even examples like Eamon Ryan (leader of the Green party, current minister for transport) only going from diesel to an EV in 2020.

Putting the onus on private citizens with no leadership or incentives is a poor show. And in the week of COP26, makes us look ridiculous as our Taoiseach spouts nonsense from a stage to peers from across the globe only a few KM from home.