Is now the right time to go Electric?
Written by Greg Gaughran
Every TV commercial for a car brand these days is for one of their electric models. But would you buy one tomorrow?
As the world tries to digest the information laid out in the recent Climate Change report from the UN, it seems that everyone is talking about the fastest and most economically sound way to lower our emissions.
And so, the conversation about Electric Cars is very much back on the agenda.
The age of the electric car really started for me when the Nissan LEAF was launched in 2010. And even with the advances by all the other great brands, it still held it’s place as the most popular electric car in Ireland in 2020 (it’s taken over by the Volkswagen ID4 so far this year)
I get asked for advice on cars almost every day. The latest came from my eldest daughter. Her first car needed to be second hand and an automatic, with room for Gigi, (the dog) in the back seat.
‘Should I look at an Electric Car?’ she asked, as so many have before her. And so, I presented her with the things that need to be considered:
Where do you live?
One of the first things you need to consider when thinking about going electric, is that you will need to have a charging point installed at home. You should not be considering buying an electric car at this point if you do not have home charger, because you cannot rely solely on public charge points right now. The sufficient infrastructure simply isn’t there yet (more on this later).
Installing an EV charging point is fine for those living in houses, but not so much for apartment dwellers. If we consider the residential building happening in our cities at the moment – we see that there is a solid focus on apartment living. This causes an issue for electric car owners. However, the SEAI have recently been looking for suggestions from the public about how they can best serve EV points into apartment blocks, so we should see some changes here soon hopefully.
In some good news for EV owners looking to charge at home (according to the SEAI) almost 6,000 grants were provided to purchase new EVs so far in 2021 (186% increase on 2020) and just over 3,000 home charger grants (282% increase on 2020) were catered for.
What about Public charging points?
So, as the uptake in sales of EV’s started to take hold, we did get a network of charge points across the country. The ESB, currently has 1,385 charging points around the country, varying from “slow” on-street chargers, to “fast” 50kW DC points, and “rapid” 150kW and 350kW chargers.
EasyGo has 400 chargers across the country and IONITY has 6 ultra-fast 350kW charging station (which doesn’t sound like a lot, but each one can charge up to eight electric cars at once). Tesla itself has what they call a bunch too (with more promised), but these are currently compatible with Teslas only.
So, all in all, we have approximately 2,000 public charging points on our roads and we know that about 6,000 new electric cars have already been purchased this year so far.
So, you will have to assume that this figure alone will put pressure on 2,000 charge stations fairly quickly.
And of course, most of these charge points are in Dublin (more people) and very little of the fast chargers are available anywhere else, making it difficult for those taking a trip across the country in their EV.
The other big consideration is whether or not we will have sufficient electrical capacity for the national grid to support the increased number of EV purchases needing home charging and public chargers. That’s a question we cannot answer here.
The etiquette of Charge points:
A personal bugbear of mine (it shouldn’t be, I don’t even drive an electric car!), is when I see the same EV parked in a space for hours on end.
I see it all the time on Pembroke St in the centre of Dublin. There are two EV charging spaces and almost every day I see a car parked up for 5-6 hours at a time, or worse, a car parked across the two spaces!
I’ve seen them clamped, but I get the impression that the driver is not too bothered by the clamp release fee.
I’m assuming that the Charge Point operators (or indeed the clampers) will know if the car parked up is actually being charged, or has finished charging? A survey undertaken by the Irish Electric Vehicle Owners Association found that charge point blocking remains one of the biggest problems for EV owners who need to charge their car in public.
Are Electric cars definitely better for the environment?
This question is becoming more and more prevalent and with good reason.
In theory, yes, electric cars are greener, cleaner, with little or no emissions and therefore, better for our environment. They have a lower carbon footprint than vehicles using traditional, internal combustion engines. Experts across the world appear to all agree on this point.
However, it’s important to look a little deeper.
To charge the battery for your EV, you will be using power from the national grid (most likely, unless you have solar powered electricity in your home). And the national grid is almost always powered by fossil fuels.
Separately, the production of the battery in the first place, is an energy -intensive process. The sourcing of lithium-ion for the batteries is a costly process and not just a financial one. Questions are also being asked about how these batteries will be recycled, if they can be at all? The questions haven’t been answered yet, because the problem isn’t real yet. Electric cars are really only at the start of their journey (pardon the pun), so the volume of batteries about to hit the scrap heap as people trade up, just hasn’t been realised so far.
All that said however, the EV will become more energy efficient across it’s lifetime compared with internal combustion engines and we will see even less emissions once we move further away from fossil fuels (hopefully) and towards cleaner energy production (ie: Wind power etc)
How does the drive compare?
Ah, the big question for someone (me) who likes to consider himself a car-enthusiast. Does driving an Electric car feel the same? I would like to refer to a quote from Stephen Bayley, an actual car-enthusiast and author of Sex, Drink and Fast Cars in 1986 and The Age of Combustion (which is a collection of his columns from monthly car magazine Octane).
Note: Stephen Bayley is also an author, critic, columnist, broadcaster and debater, so I feel that I am in good company!
“My personal thing is that I don’t like the electric car experience. I just felt that I was being driven by the car, not the other way around. I like to be in charge, and part of the pleasure of cars, of driving, as it used to be, was that I liked the engagement. I liked having gears to play with and judging the braking.” Stephen Bayley
I haven’t driven a lot of electric cars yet, but these words will ring in my ears (if only to try to prove them wrong) the next time I get into one.
If I were to buy an electric car tomorrow, what would I buy?
The Audi eTron for sure.
And maybe the Hyundai Ioniq 5 – it just keeps catching my eye!
Oh, and my daughter found an automatic Fiat 500 and loves it. Now, for the driving lessons
See you next time! You will find me here on Wasted.ie or on-air on Radio Nova