Getting 900,000 electric vehicles on Irish roads to slash transport emissions by the end of the decade will be difficult if current levels of cars sales continue, Morning Ireland has learned.
Brian Cooke, Director General of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry [SIMI], told the programme that reaching the 2030 target – as set out in the 2019 climate action plan - depends on a number of factors including: the economy; incentives from government; and car sales.
"There is a lot of moving parts. Firstly, the economy needs to be performing well to help create a new car market. The current level of new car sales would suggest that it will be very difficult to reach that target," Mr Cooke told Morning Ireland.
"We need the incentives, the supports and the infrastructure to be put in place by the Government and we need the industry to supply more and more electric vehicles at more affordable prices. In the short term that will only be done with Government supports," Mr Cooke said.
However, Mr Cooke added as the decade progresses toward 2030, prices of electric cars would reach price parity with fossil fuel ones.
He stressed if "the economy underperforms or if the taxation and incentive structures aren't" in place for electric vehicles then "it will be very difficult to get close" to the target of getting 900,000 electric vehicles on Irish roads by 2030.
He added if "all those moving parts work well together we can get close to the targets."
Lecturer in energy systems at UCC Dr Hannah Daly said she is more optimistic than before the 2030 EV targets can be hit.
"You can see that the sales share of EVs is almost doubling almost every year, which is an incredible speed of penetration. If you see a doubling like that continue you get to 100 % of new car sales very quickly. That is where we need to be getting," said Dr Daly.
Senior lecturer at UCC Dr John Hayes, who specialises in electric vehicles, said it is unlikely Ireland will hit its electric vehicle targets.
"2030 is just over eight years away. The number of car sales in Ireland on a typical year is about 100,000. We would need to have 100% of cars sold every year for the next eight years in order to hit 900,000 by 2030," Dr Hayes said.
"That's pretty much impossible.
"We will hit a significant number – a significant number will be hundreds of thousands – but I don’t see us hitting 900,000 or a million."
He said supply chain difficulties in getting electric cars to market and the cost of EVs were challenges in reaching the 2030 target.
"When we compare cars, if I am trading up to an EV on a like-for-like basis, I could be paying about €10,000 extra. That is certainly going to be a struggle for those who are down on the economic ladder," Dr Hayes added.
To date this year, 8% of the Irish car market is made up of electric cars.
SIMI confirmed to RTÉ that over 8,300 EVs are registered so far in 2021. This is more than double the amount last year, and an eight-fold increase over the last four years.
In comparison, according to SIMI, there are about 70,000 petrol and diesel cars registered already in 2021. The remainder of cars registered in 2021 are hybrids and plug in hybrids [PHEVs].
A €2,500 grant incentive for PHEVs will end from the start of January 2022 – a move that Mr Cooke criticised as "creating uncertainty in the consumers mind".
"We are hugely concerned about the signal that it sends out to the industry," said Mr Cooke.
People speaking in a vox-pop on Morning Ireland cited cost as disincentive in the decision to buy a new EV.
However, most said they recognised they would eventually drive an EV and cited the rising cost of diesel and petrol as a motivational factor for changing their cars.
Dr Daly stressed the positive impact the move to EVs would have on noxious emissions from transport.
"They are a big win, win – electric cars. They remove air pollution. They can be powered by indigenous Irish produced energy – which is wind and solar energy," Dr Daly said.
"Ireland imports about €5 billion worth of fossil fuels every year. If we can reach our climate goals by reducing those and using indigenous renewable energy instead, it is a big win/win."