Government must do more to facilitate EV switch: report

Survey of Irish EV owners shows dissatisfaction with charging network and more.
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

Published on November 3, 2023

The government should be doing more to improve the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EV) while further incentivising people to switch to EVs, a new report has found.

The 'State of Electric Mobility in the Island of Ireland' report, by EV charging network company GoPlugable, has been compiled following a wide-ranging survey on a variety of subjects related to the ownership and use of EVs.

It was completed by 1,623 respondents, in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, with the majority of feedback coming from existing EV owners (64 per cent). The remainder of respondents were either considering owning an EV (19 per cent) or not thinking about it at all (17 per cent).

93% are anxious about finding rural charge points

In the report's findings, an underlying unease about the state of Ireland's EV charging network comes to the fore. A huge 93 per cent of respondents say they feel either very anxious (63 per cent) or somewhat likely to feel anxious (30 per cent) about finding a public charging station when travelling between towns and cities in Ireland.

More than half (55 per cent) are shocked about the price of public charging stations, sometimes being almost double domestic rates, while only 7 per cent say they have been very happy with their public charging station experience. Another 39 per cent said they merely had OK experiences when charging their EVs away from home.

And while an encouraging 55 per cent report typically not having to wait to use public EV chargers, another 8 per cent say they are often waiting more than 30 minutes to even access a charger in the first place.

This is why 80 per cent of respondents say there need to be more charging stations in Ireland, while 69 per cent of EV owners also would like to see a decrease in electric unit cost price.

Clear information on available EV grants needed

The GoPlugable report was conducted alongside the Irish EV Association (IEVA) and the EV Association Northern Ireland (EVANI), two bodies which seek to promote the information and benefits related to owning an EV, and to offer support and advice to those making the transition away from internal combustion vehicles.

Both picked up on the report's obvious indication that information from the government(s) is not getting out to car buyers as clearly as it could. For instance, only 66 per cent of EV owners know about the SEAI's €600 home-charger grant that helps with the installation of this vital piece of equipment, while 52 per cent of non-EV owners reported not knowing there was any financial support to buying an EV at all.

That leads to a huge 87 per cent of the survey's respondents saying they felt the government(s) should be doing more to facilitate the switch to EVs.

28% considering going back to ICE

Some other eye-catching figures came out of the report, beyond a general dissatisfaction with both the national charging network and the government's efforts - and a lot of that might reflect current opinion on the present-day technology for EV batteries. For instance, only slightly more than half (54 per cent) of prospective EV owners think the cars available today have enough usable range, while considerably less than one-in-five (14 per cent) said they were voluntarily considering an EV when they change their current car.

That links to 42 per cent of prospective EV owners who think charging times are too long or inconvenient, which is perhaps why 19 per cent of respondents to the GoPlugable survey said they will only buy an EV if they are mandated to.

It's perhaps more worrying that, among the people who completed the survey who already own EVs, fully 28 per cent say they are definitely or seriously considering going back to a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. And 69 per cent express doubts that the 2030 target of having one million EVs on Ireland's roads will be met.

Interestingly, a lot of these concerns with the EVs themselves could be allayed by Toyota's recent announcement that it has cracked solid-state battery (SSB) technology. The Japanese giant claims it will have SSBs in production by 2027, with the promise of pretty much doubling the one-shot range of current EVs - Toyota reckons its SSBs can go up to 1,000km on a single charge, with a second-phase battery coming after that reputedly capable of up to 1,200km in one hit. Better still, SSBs only take ten minutes to go from 10-80 per cent of battery power at their maximum charging rates.

Long-range EVs the order of the day

Final thoughts from the survey include the fact that, because of the relatively limited driving range of present-day EVs, 65 per cent of electric car owners in Ireland have 'long-range' models - basically, EVs fitted with battery packs of 60kWh or more. Only 19 per cent are using short-range EVs (batteries of 40kWh or less), with these users presumably living in urban areas - in the survey, the main concentrations of respondents were, understandably, from the island's major cities: Dublin (18.41 per cent), Belfast (7.86 per cent) and Cork (7.15 per cent).

Alarmingly for the two associate bodies involved in the report, 73 per cent of potential EV owners said they were not aware of IEVA or EVANI. Both groups responded, saying it was on them to "amplify our outreach and awareness campaigns" to rectify that matter.