Nissan LeafIt may come as a surprise to learn that electric cars are not a recent invention, but instead date back to the early 19th century.

They proved popular until petrol cars came along, which offered more horsepower and increased travel distance. However, due to the current climate emergency, electric cars are making a comeback because of their zero exhaust emissions. Luckily, they have come a long way since the 1800’s and the current models offer a smother and sleeker ride.

Richard Bruton, Minister for Communications Climate Action and Environment, launched our Climate Action Plan (June 2019), which detailed how Ireland can achieve its 2030 targets for carbon emissions. It’s safe to say, that we are in for some big changes at home, work and on our roads in the next ten years to reach our target. One of the main areas of focus is taking petrol and diesel cars off our roads as they contribute to air pollution. The government plans to introduce legislation to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030. So, if you’ve buried your head in the sand up to now, it might be time to learn about what you’ll be driving in the future.

How do Electric Cars work?
What is an electric car and how do they work? Basically, they are powered by an electrically charged battery pack which powers the electric motor, and turns the wheels. There is no clutch or gears, instead the car is operated just by accelerating and braking. In that way, it’s similar to an automatic car. These vehicles depend solely on electricity for power and not petrol or diesel. By comparison, Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid cars contain an electric motor that will power the car but they also have a petrol/diesel engine that work in tandem with the electric motor. Hybrids are more common on our roads today than electric cars, but these will be phased out too.

When you use the brake in an electric car, the electric motor stores the energy of the car as it slows down and uses it to recharge the battery. So when you slow down, you are getting free energy. This is known as regenerative breaking. This means there is less wear on the brake pads as the motor is doing most of the work in slowing down the car. It’s a win-win situation!

Electric cars are much quieter than petrol and diesel cars, but since July 1st, all new electric vehicles are now being fitted with noise emitting devices. This is to alert road users, like cyclists and pedestrians that a car is nearby. They will probably still be quieter than a diesel engine though!

Charging
So, how do you fuel your car? By charging it, much like your phone! Electric car owners can charge their car battery from a dedicated charging unit. The battery receives power when the car’s charge port is connected to the source of electricity at a public charging unit or at home overnight. If you choose a night saver rate to charge your electric car by night you will save on running costs. Currently there is approximately 1,200 public charger points around Ireland which are free to use with an ESB eCars access card. At the moment public charging is free, but that is due to change in the near future as the government believes that allowing businesses to charge, will act as an incentive to installing charging units. Eventually, we will need charging units to be as accessible as petrol stations, if we don’t want to be stranded with a dead battery. Here is a map of the current ESB charging points.

The distance you can drive before needing to recharge your battery depends on the type of battery and driving conditions. At the moment, electric cars are probably suiting city dwellers more, as they are not driving long distances.

Incentives
The government have introduced various incentives to entice people into purchasing electric cars. Grants are available for people buying electric cars priced €14,000 or higher. The maximum €5,000 grant only applies to vehicles with a price tag of €20,000 or more. To avail of the grant vehicles must be bought from an approved dealer. For more information on a grant, click here.

Second-hand electric cars cost less but it’s very important to check the health of the battery, as they degrade over time. Check the car warranty carefully and get an independent mechanic to verify the battery if you have any doubts before purchasing. The battery of an electric car is often the most expensive part, so you don’t want to be replacing one on a second hand car you just bought!

According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), fuelling an electric car can cost 80% less than the petrol version of the same car. Also because there are less moveable parts in an electric car they require less up-keep and maintenance. No timing belts to be replaced and no oil changes!

Another incentive offered by the government is the Electric Vehicle Toll Incentive. This was introduced in Budget 2018 and offers reduced toll charges for electric car road users. Also introduced in the Budget was a new Benefit in Kind (BIK) 0% rate for businesses purchasing electric cars. This is attractive to businesses who want to add to their fleet of cars.
There is a €600 grant available to individuals who wish to install home chargers. That means you can easily recharge while at home. Though it’s not clear yet how this would work for those who live in apartments or have on street parking. Electric car owners will avail of a low motor tax rate of €120 and can benefit from up to €5,000 VRT relief. Even though there can be a hefty price tag when purchasing a new electric car, experts maintain that you will end up saving money in the car’s lifetime because there is less maintenance and you pay less to refuel.

The Future
By 2030, electric cars will be mainstream, as Ireland plays its part in combating climate change. Like it or not, we’ll be saying goodbye to our gas guzzlers and hello to quieter, cleaner driving experience.

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