The ESB has confirmed that it plans to start charging electric vehicle (EV) users for their use of public charging stations from next year.

However, the company has not yet set out what the charges will be.

The move will be accompanied by further improvements to the public charging infrastructure, including the addition of new super-fast charging hubs.

"These hubs would cater for two to eight vehicles charging simultaneously and offer drivers higher charging speeds, resulting in reduced charging times and faster journeys," a spokesman for the ESB said in a statement.

Until now, use of public charging stations has remained free in an effort to encourage adoption of EVs.

The State-owned electricity provider says the introduction of fees in 2019 is necessary to fund the maintenance and development of the network.

Once the upgrades have been made, fees will first be applied for the use of existing 50kW fast chargers in the first half of next year.

Use of the AC standard charger or slow charging network will then be charged for beginning in 2020.

"We will consult and engage with EV drivers and stakeholders in advance of fees being introduced," the ESB said.

The ESB did announce plans in 2015 to introduce charges for use of public EV charging stations, but later rowed back on it following a backlash from users and other stakeholders.

As part of its climate change mitigation plans, the Government has set a target of no new fossil fuel powered vehicles being sold in Ireland from 2030 onwards and that by then it is hoped there will be at least 500,000 EVs on Irish roads.

However, the target is seen as highly ambitious, with just 7,000 EVs currently registered here.

The uptake is growing though, with 3,209 of those registered this year alone, and an increase of 1,866 on the same period last year.

This has been helped by a number of initiatives, including grants for home chargers, the introduction of a zero Benefit-in-Kind rate for electric company cars and toll reductions of up to 75% for EVs.

ESB began rolling out the first phase of its EV charging network in 2010.

However, it has seen little further development since it was completed, leading to claims that EVs are still not practical for longer journeys in this country.

There are currently 92 of the 52kW fast chargers in place around the country, with more than 1,000 22kW standard chargers.

The ESB plans to replace fast charging stations already in existence in eight locations around the country and add three more in Cavan, Carlow and Wexford.

The new multiple charger super-fast charging hubs would provide higher power stations with 150kW and 350kW capacity, capable of charging vehicles quicker and extending the range of each charge.