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Electric vehicles – are they as good for the environment as we think?

Alternative fuel vehicles accounted for 10% of all new cars registered in 2019, according to statistics released by the Central Statistics Office.

By Pádraic Daly

Alternative fuel vehicles accounted for 10% of all new cars registered in 2019, according to statistics released by the Central Statistics Office.

Between January and October 2019, 110,900 new private cars were registered. Of that, there were 3,119 electric vehicles (EVs) and 10,742 hybrid cars registered.

Compared with the same period last year, there has been a 3.6% increase in new alternative fuel cars being registered on Irish roads.

The Irish Government published their Climate Action Plan in July of this year, detailing their vision for a future without traditionally fuelled vehicles, which currently make up just over one quarter of all emissions. The Government hopes to have 840,000 private EVs on Irish roads by 2030.

Sarah Doherty, from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport’s Climate Change Unit spoke to TheCity.ie about the Climate Action Plan’s expectations: “This is a very challenging target; however, as technology improves and becomes cheaper, and if we continue to incentivise and invest in EVs and the associated recharging network, we are ambitious that we can make real progress towards getting the electric vehicles we need on the road by 2030.”

Compared to conventionally powered cars, the price of a new electric car can be anything from 15% to 50% higher. Currently, the Government offer a grant scheme to incentivise consumers to choose alternative fuel vehicles over traditionally fuelled ones. Currently, consumers can avail of up to €5,000 off their purchase, as well as €600 for the installation of a home-charging system.

The notion that electric vehicles are a better alternative to other options has been widely disputed. An Post recently took a number of EVs into their fleet, branding them as “zero emissions”. This isn’t strictly accurate, as EVs do not remove emissions from the equation, but rather have zero “tailpipe” emissions, which means they do not have an exhaust and do not emit gases the same way traditionally fuelled cars do.

Ms Doherty stated: “It must be remembered that emissions are generated to produce the electricity used to fuel these vehicles.”

Despite a climate action plan in place, the Government does not predict we will lose dependence on fossil-fuelled vehicles anytime soon. “There will be approximately 2.45 million fossil-fuelled vehicles in 2030, of which, 1.75 million would be fossil fuelled private cars,” Sarah Doherty added, which suggests a mere 20% of vehicles will be EVs by 2030.

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