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Going green: 7 reasons to buy electric vehicles (and which questions to ask)

The clear message from government is it’s time to think electric vehicle (EV) for you, your family and business. You won’t be able to buy a new petrol or diesel car in 10 years’ time.  Right now that spells good news for your pocket and our planet.
So here are some environmental and financial reasons to buy one soon:
✦ EVs have zero emissions; driving one does no harm to the environment.
✦ They attract serious tax incentives: €10,000 off a new car (VRT refund, SEAI grant), low road tax, no BIK for most owners etc.
✦ EVs are becoming more affordable and choice is growing.
✦ Your current petrol/diesel car will cost more to buy and run.
✦ A full EV charge-at-home can cost as little as €2.
✦ Battery technology is improving; solid-state batteries are being developed which will revolutionise range and power.
✦ And we’re promised a better public charging structure. Result: reduced range anxiety overall.
Just remember though:
✦ Despite incentives, EVs are still expensive, scarce and don’t suit everyone.
✦ You will soon pay for public charging.
✦ High levels of harmful emissions arise during EV production (batteries especially).
✦ Many makers insist EV production will soon be ‘carbon neutral’. But some experts say it will take years of EV driving to equalise emissions involved in production.
So what can you do?
Start by asking your dealer for the overall environmental impact (from start of production to end of lifespan) of the EVs on sale. Factor it into your buying decision.
✦ Ask your power provider to positively discriminate for electricity from green sources for charging: driving an EV on coal-based electricity is counterproductive.
✦ Lobby generally for cleaner electricity production.
Your biggest dilemma is when to buy.
Get on board now? Or wait for greater choice and lower prices – and the risk of lower incentives tapering off as volume increases.
Either way it is time to start some serious thinking and planning about switching in the near future.
THE BIG QUESTION: Can we live without owning a car?Have you seen the number of cars with just the driver on board? Ridiculous. If there were proper incentives and restrictions people could/would car-share more. Imagine if every car carried two instead of one, you’d halve the number of cars and seriously cut logjams and emissions.
Public transport is stretched to cope with its current capacities. But for real progress on greener private transport, it needs to be vastly expanded and integrated. So people can park and ride in their droves, for example.
Greater use of pay-as-you-use GoCar-type facilities – especially in urban areas – makes sense as you use a car only when you need it.
With a small bit of planning you can do money-saving deals with rental companies that exclude the need for owning a car at all. No tax, insurance or repair bills.
Hydrogen is regarded as the ultimate long-term zero emission fuel with plans already afoot in Britain and Europe to build more hydrogen stations. It is heavily designed towards larger vehicles such as trucks and vans. But it works in cars too – I’ve driven and refilled a hydrogen-powered car. However, we are talking long, long term.
For now, we’ve all got to become more aware of how our driving is affecting the environment. That involves more than just buying greener cars. It involves how we drive them too. Go easy on the accelerator.
Read more: From e-bikes to eco-cabs to good old-fashioned bicycles – alternatives to the car

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How motorists could play a key role in car-tax decisions

It is easy to get lost in the sea of words over the potential impact of the Budget and Brexit on motoring.One thing that is often assumed, or indeed overlooked, is the role played – or not played – by the consumer.They/we are the ones paying all the bills, ultimately, but seem to have little say on the whys and wherefores of having to do so.Yes, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry can claim, with some justification, that the customer always comes first.And yes, the Government can affect family driving with taxation – or incentives as is the case with electrified cars.But while the powerful lobbies – from farmers to builders to motor businesses – focus on trying to persuade ministers to pursue or change policies, your ordinary motorist is largely left to stand and helplessly watch the drama unfold.Only it doesn’t have to be that way any more – on a number of levels.Fact: most people own a car or van; that makes us part of one of the major groups in society.Fact: we can individually influence the decision making process at local politics’ level.How? By letting those we elect know what we want and how we feel about how private transport is being treated and planned.Admittedly, we haven’t been good at that. VRT, for example, is not a raging topic in your councillor’s/TD’s clinic. Far more pressing issues abound.But is now not a great time to change that?A moment when we are not, as SIMI’s Brian Cooke said yesterday, “in normal times”. A good time to flex our muscles as motorists and show we feel the need to have our say where it matters.While Brexit and Budget fears are creating confusion, this is a real challenge for motorists.You may not want to hear it but it goes something like this: we want to have cleaner air, a healthier environment, so we are becoming hugely interested in ‘green’ motoring, especially hybrids and electric vehicles.The Government is encouraging us to be that way.At the same time 100,000-plus of us are buying used imports, the majority of which are much ‘dirtier’ than new vehicles sold down here, and more likely to damage our air and environment.We buy them because imports are less expensive.So while we want clean air and a slowing of global warming, many of us are not prepared to pay for them.I’m not saying all 100,000-plus who buy an import this year would have bought a cleaner, greener car in the Republic.But, under a certain set of circumstances, a decent percentage might have.And that could have made some contribution to the drive to be so-called ‘greener’.The problem is that the current tax system is geared towards you buying imports and not cleaner new cars.Nobody seriously expects you to forgo your savings.But if we really care about how much damage a car spews out the tailpipe should we be telling the policy makers that they should be making it possible for you to get cleaner cars for a reasonable price too?Essentially it all boils down to one simple question: how much are we prepared as a country and as individuals to pay for being ‘green’.Over to you.Tell us what you think? Do we really care about the environment? ecunningham@independent.ie

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