Senator calls for Scandinavian-style incentives to boost electric car sales

Published by Niall Sargent on

May 17th, 2017

Scandinavian-style incentives are needed as a “matter of urgency” to increase the number of electric cars on Irish roads, says Fine Gael Senator.

Dublin Senator, Catherine Noone raised the issue in the Seanad this week, calling on the government to follow the lead of Norway and increase incentives for Irish drivers to buy electric vehicles (EVs).

In 2008, the Irish Government set a target of 200,000 EVs on Irish roads, however, to date, there are only around 2,000 EVs – one percent of the target – in operation.

While there is a lower rate of VRT on electric and hybrid cars, Ms Noone called for the introduction of further incentives to help boost sales.

Ms Noone pointed to Norway’s use of additional successful incentives such as free parking in public car parks, the right for EV drivers to use bus lanes and lower annual road taxes.

The Scandinavian country has the highest rate of use of electric vehicles in Europe, with electric cars making up over a third of all new cars bought in Norway last January.

At the start of this year, there were 150,000 electric or hybrid cars on Norwegian roads from a total stock of 2.4m, making Norway the biggest single market for plug-in cars in the world after California.

“With a 25 year legacy of support for electric vehicles, Norwegian experience can’t be replicated overnight,” said Ms Noone. “But there’s no doubt that we can do far more to encourage motorists to make the switch.”

She said that the need to move to a more sustainable transport model was pressing given the growing concern around poor air quality in the country.

While Ireland’s air quality is good by European standards, but it does not fare so well when measured against new World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

Ireland exceeds WHO guideline values for PM10 and PM2.5 – very fine particulates smaller than 10 micrometres that can enter the lungs and cause major health problems.

It is estimated that 1,200 people die prematurely from exposure to poor air quality in Ireland every year.

Ms Noone also called for the decarbonisation of the Dublin transport system.  There are currently around one thousand Dublin buses in operation which run on diesel.

According to the latest EPA State of the Environment report, traffic is the key pressure on air quality in our largest cities.

The report states that exhaust emissions, in particular, have left us hovering dangerously close to EU limits for nitrogen dioxide NO2, a major contributor to poor air quality.

Earlier this month, Dublin Friends of the Earth called on the Department of Environment and Climate Action to agree strong and decisive action in its first-ever proposed National Clean Air Strategy.

The group outlined its findings in a twelve-page submission to the Department’s Cleaning Our Air public consultation.

The submission outlines community renewables energy schemes, an “ambitious” retrofitting programme and major investment in cycling and clean public transport as potential solutions.

According to Debora O’Connor, a member of Dublin Friends of the Earth, if the public is presented with the correct policy, people will “make the right choices to protect ourselves and our environment.”

The submission also calls for a large increase in air monitoring stations, and for real-time results to be made available online. Information should also be available on electronic displays as there is currently “grossly inadequate information” provided on outdoor air quality, the submissions states.

“Most air pollution in Ireland today is invisible but it affects everyone – motorists and taxi drivers as well as pedestrians and cyclists, children and parents at school gates as well as people with asthma and other chronic illnesses,” said Dr Matt Robinson, a member of Dublin Friends of the Earth.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London