Switching to Electric Vehicles

Key Point

The government has set an ambitious target to have half a million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2030. There are currently circa 3,000 electric vehicles in Ireland or 15 per cent of the 2020 target.


Ireland set an initial target of converting 10 per cent of the passenger and light commercial vehicle stock to electric vehicles (EVs) by 2020 (equivalent to 230,000 vehicles). In 2014, the lower than anticipated uptake of EVs led to a downward revision of this target to 50,000 by 2020. In 2017, the target was lowered further to 20,000 . The recently published Ireland 2040 National Development Plan 2018 – 2027 contains an objective to have at least 500,000 EVs on Irish roads by 2030.

Vehicles by Fuel Type

Table 1 shows the number of vehicles by taxation class and fuel type in 2017.

Table 1 – Number of Vehicles by Taxation Class and Type of Fuel


As of the end of 2017, the majority of vehicles were powered by diesel (60%), while 39% of all vehicles used petrol. Among private cars, 2,718 or 0.1 per cent were electric. Table 1 shows that hybrid cars accounted for 29,996 or 1.5 per cent of all private cars. The number of newly licensed EV private cars increased substantially in 2017 relative to 2016 – by 80%, from 608 to 1,092.

Charging Infrastructure

As of June 2017, there were 800 EV public charging points installed in Ireland, including 79 fast chargers 2 . As of March 2018, there are approximately 1,200 public charge points across the island of Ireland 3 . The Climate Change Advisory Council believes that the “lack of penetration of electric vehicles and other alternative fuel vehicles in the national fleet is exacerbating emissions, and an assessment of the adequacy of the current electric vehicle charging network should be undertaken 4 ” . A total of €1.8m has been allocated for charging infrastructure in 20185 .

It has been acknowledged by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) that public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles which currently provides free fuel for electric vehicles is not sustainable in the longer term, particularly as the number of EVs increases. The CRU has pointed to the need for charging infrastructure to operate on a commercial basis at a price point that does not disincentivise the uptake of electric vehicles6 . The Department of Transport has stated that an EU recommendation for one recharging point per 10 cars is unnecessary in Ireland given that home charging is currently the most common mechanism (more than 80%) for EV owners7 . Public charging infrastructure may be required in more urban environments where residents do not have access to driveways and private car parking spaces in which private chargers could be installed.

Policy Direction

Budget 2018 introduced a 0% benefit-in-kind (BIK) rate for electric vehicles8 . A comprehensive review of benefit-in-kind on vehicles is to be carried out which will inform decisions for Budget 2019. The Government is considering a new toll incentive regime to incentivise ultra-low emitting cars. An EV Home Charger Grant was launched on 1 January 2018. The EV Home Charger Grant scheme provides a grant of up to €600 towards the purchase and installation of a home charger unit for eligible EV drivers.

The Electric Vehicle Purchase Grant, introduced in April 2011, provides grant aid of up to €5,000 towards the purchase of a new Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) or a new Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). From the introduction of the scheme to the end of 2017, grant support has been provided for the purchase of a total of 2,636 new vehicles at a cost of €12.4 million. Further measures which offer a firm price signal to consumers can reduce emissions, improve air quality and reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels9 .





1 DTTAS (2017) National Policy Framework on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland 2017 to 2030’

2 DTTS (2017),Transport Trends – An Overview of Ireland’s Transport Sector’

3 ESB (2018),ecars Charge Point Map

4 Climate Change Advisory Council (2017), ‘Annual Review 2017’

5 Oireachtas (2018), ‘Electric Vehicles – PQ, 13 February 2018’

6Oireachtas (2018), ‘‘Electric Vehicles – PQ, 31 January 2018’

7 DTTAS (2017), National Policy Framework on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland 2017 to 2030’

8 Electric vehicles can avail of VRT relief of up to €5,000 and apply for a purchase grant scheme of up to €5,000.

9 At the Citizens’ Assembly, 96% of the Members recommended that the State should immediately take numerous steps to support the transition to electric vehicles. These included: developing an expanded national network of charging points, reductions in motor tax for electric vehicles (currently €120), lower or free motorway tolls. The Assembly also recommended that measures should then be introduced to progressively disincentivise the purchase of new carbon intensive vehicles such as year-on-year increases in taxes on petrol and diesel, motor tax and purchase taxes for petrol and diesel vehicles.


PDF Version

Image Credit

About author


  1. Breandán Mac Searraigh 16 Mar 2018 at 11:55 am

    I was pleased to see this alert and hurried to read the article. I was disappointed, I’m sorry to say. Electricity charging points are an end-of-pipeline problem. The big issue, which isn’t addressed, is ‘where will we get the electricity from?’ and ‘how much electricity/vehicular transport will be available?’.

    I think that we might have very much less personal mobility in coming decades than we have become used to. It may be that electric cars will be used only for short journeys and that long distance (especially inter-city) travel will be done using electric trains and busses.

    We should be looking to rearrange our society so as to reduce the amount of vehicular travel needed. If we can generate our own electricity in a stable, predictable way, it will also insulate us against sudden shortages of imported liquid fuels.

  2. Donal O’Brolchain 16 Mar 2018 at 1:09 pm

    This analysis assumes that it is good policy to focus on keeping private cars as the main form of transport to work in the Greater Dublin area, particularly inside the M50.. There is not doubt about benefits of such private transport for private individuals, particularly those with free car-parking spaces provided at their places of work. The policy of shifting the source of power from internal combustion engines needs to be complemented by considering the street space such vehicles take up, particularly at peak times in the Greater Dublin Area.
    During the morning peak, Dublin City Council canal cordon counts shows that most people travel by car. Each car carries an average of 1.25 people and takes up about 4.3m of streetspace (my estimate). A 55m tram carries about 380 people. This is twenty times more people that would fit in the space as the 13 cars taking up the same 55m streetspace. Double deck buses (also fossil-fueled by health endangering diesel) take about 10m of streetspace and carry about 90 passengers. Given that there must be an assured stopping distance between vehicles, five such buses (with 450 passengers) take about the same streespace one 55m LUAS tram. However, operational costs for LUAS are lower, as only one driver is needed compared to the 5 for the buses. In addition, there are less emissions at point of use, albeit at a higher capital cost for new infrastructure.
    To meet emissions targets, the public authorities need to pay just as much attention to major enhancements of public transport along heavily trafficked routes inside the M50. This is needed if, car drivers are enticed to be efficient in using streetspace as welll as choice of fuel. This modal shift is also part of public policy. However the emphasis on a Metro link to Dublin Airport and Swords in Ireland 2040 indicates clearly that grand gestures still dominate public policy making. The quiet competence needed to reduce transport emissions needs more than promoting private use of electric vehicles on the limited streetspace inside the M50.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Public Policy, Independent Thinking on Public Decisions

79 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, Ireland
tel: 353 (1) 676 0414 | email: info@publicpolicy.ie
Company registration number: 504956

Privacy Policy | Chairman's Blog | Events | Video | Public Policy Documents | News Property Tax Ireland | Pension Reform Ireland | Water Charges Ireland

Image credits