Despite the appearance of more and more charge points in car parks around the country, there was a fall off in the sale of electric cars in the month of January. According to figures from the Society of the Motor Industry in Ireland, 104 electric cars were sold in January, down from 168 in the first month of last year. 

Economist Jim Power authored the SIMI report. He said there were a number of reasons for the fall off, but he was confident that the trend would reverse. "It's a timing issue. The Nissan Leaf, for example, is one of the market leaders and a new model is being introduced in March. That had an impact. Another manufacturer got a lot of supply last January that it didn't have this year and there's been a year on year decline in that regard."

Mr Power also pointed to the introduction of tax changes in the budget to incentivise the purchase of electric cars and a new grant to encourage taxi and hackney drivers to go electric. "It suggests there will be a lot of demand for electric cars but the supply just isn't there at the moment. I would expect strong growth in the market, particularly over the next five years."

Jim Power said he believed the Government's ambition - for all new cars sold here from 2030 to be zero emission - would be achievable. "It is happening. We've seen a 5% reduction in new diesel car sales. Petrol and hybrid are making up a lot of the loss there. Government incentives will drive the pace of change. 2030 is realistic, but the technology has to change. We need faster charging and longer range batteries," he said.

The economist agreed that the biggest issue facing the new car market at the moment was the weakness in sterling which was making it more attractive for car buyers to import slightly new models from the UK. "Last year, we sold 133,000 cars. We imported just over 93,000 used cars. That's because of sterling weakness. It's simply cheaper and the tax treatment on imported cars is lower. 

He also noted that 37% of used imports are three years or younger and they are displacing new cars sales. "That trend continued in January. It is a currency play. If sterling were to strengthen, that market would die off but it looks like it will continue," he concluded.

MORNING BRIEFS - Athlone-based pharmaceutical firm Alkermes is to lay off up to 30 workers, bringing the workforce to under 400. The company, formerly Elan, told the workforce the redundancies would be compulsory in the manufacturing area. They came about as a result of increased generic competition and changes in their research and development strategy.

*** Apple shares gained around 3% in after hours trade, reversing an initial fall in the share price following the reporting of results for the final quarter of last year. The company sold slightly fewer iPhones than it did at the same time in 2016, but higher prices for the new iphone ten compensated for the dip. Overall quarterly sales at the firm climbed by 13% year-on-year to a record $88.3 billion.

*** Shares in Google's parent group Alphabet also fell last night before paring back some of the losses. The company reported quarterly profits of $6.8 billion, falling slightly short of analyst predictions. However, revenue was up by a quarter to over $32 billion.

*** Shares in Dublin listed food group Aryzta are steady this morning. Shares in the company, which is behind brands such as Cuisine de France, posted a 5% gain yesterday on news that it had disposed of a portion of its US operations. The share price has been under pressure of late. The company issued a profit warning last week that saw its share price fall by over a fifth and analysts at Investec have recommended selling the stock. 

*** Telecoms provider Eir has reported a 2% drop in revenue for the first half of its financial year while its earnings before storm costs were 3% higher. The company pulled out of the bidding process for the National Broadband Plan on Wednesday. It has a separate contract from the Government to deliver high-speed broadband to 300,000 rural premises and it said today that 130,000 of those are now covered.

*** Property consultants HWBC say the vacancy rate in Dublin office space is standing at around 7%. Rents in the Central Business District grew by 8% last year to €65 per square foot. HWCB said it believes rents are set to remain at that level in 2018.