EVs require a ‘kitchen sink’ approach

13 July 2021

Ireland needs to need to “throw the kitchen sink” at the issue of electric vehicles, transportation experts told an Oireachtas committee today.

Due to the challenge halving emissions by 2030 presents, “technology and fuel switches alone will not be sufficient to meet in the Paris Agreement targets,” University College Cork lecturer Dr Hannah Daly said.

Thus, the approach to reducing transport emissions needs to extend beyond making electric vehicles cheaper and subsidising plug-in vehicles, according to her recommendations. Dr Daly also found the approach of focusing solely on the number of EVs to be ‘problematic.’

“It would be like me planning to lose weight next year, based on a target of how much salad I’m going to eat next year, when the real effort is actually on reducing the amount of junk food I’m eating” said Dr Daly.

The ‘junk food’ encapsulates current transport emissions. To counteract these emissions, car sharing schemes, subsidising electric bikes, safe cycle lanes, and parking requirements were polices to be considered.

Trinity College Dublin Associate Professor, Dr Brian Caulfield echoed this approach, and  emphasised the importance of recognising the intersection of issues.

“Transport, land use and housing are all interconnected. basically transport connects where we work and where we live,” Dr Caulfield told the Committee.

Behaviour change

A key concern is the implementation of ‘carrot and stick’ polices with public by-in. School transport was an example given of this to the Committee, as it requires both a shift in governmental policy and behaviour change.

The infrastructure is lacking for many students to safely walk or cycle to school. This is reflected in the number of primary school students who are driven to school, which in the last 35 years increased from less than 25% to 60%, according to Dr Daly.  

Proposed solutions to this included safe, segregated cycle lanes and EV busses.

Additionally, Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore raised the ‘risk’ of encouraging people to invest in technology that may later have a push to be ‘full electric.’’ She related this to her experience researching and buying a diesel car several years ago, to now being told this was the ‘wrong thing.’

This potential for current technology to later become obsolete was echoed with the implementation of charging stations around the country.

Both Dr Daly and Dr Caulfield cautioned the investment in ‘transition technologies’ like plug-in hybrid vehicles.

To adequately approach a reduction in transport emissions will require a national goal to cap ‘the number of vehicle kilometres travelled’ said Dr Caulfield.

“We’re asking our citizens to do even more. We’re asking them to fundamentally change how they move and we’re asking them to do it really quickly,” he said.

Story by Sam Starkey