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Creating a climate of doubt

It’s already looking a bit of a mess. While we can congratulate the Government for at least trying – after a good Green kicking – to face up to some of the ways we can change our carbon footprint, some of the figures and aspirations look like they were plucked from thin air. A million electric vehicles in 10 years. Hmm.And, as always, the announcements, when they don’t come at the same stage as actual budget measures, completely unsettle all aspects of a market – buyer, seller and user – and all, in turn, become unsure of how to react, which can lead to paralysis.Comments by transport minister Shane Ross that the Government wants “to force private motorists out of their cars” doesn’t help anyone to have a rational debate. It’s fine for me in the middle of Dublin, try that in Inishowen.If you were planning to buy a car in the next month, six months, or a year, what do you do? Will you be able to drive it in the big towns? Could your investment collapse in value over the next five years? Could you be investing massively in the wrong type of technology?And is the State itself doing the right thing by putting nearly all its eggs in one basket – electric-powered vehicles – when some of their major manufacturers, Hyundai and Toyota, are putting a lot of money, time and expertise in other forms of power, like hydrogen. Big companies don’t pour money down the toilet.We shall see. At the moment, the vehicle industry is on the crest of a wave with an enormous number of new vehicles – hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and fully electric (EV) – being rolled out over the next few years. That is in addition to an incredible amount of really good, conventionally powered cars that are hitting the streets at the moment. Too much choice, perhaps giving too many different messages.Where to go? I would love to help you. But, like so many of the people on both sides of the counter, I don’t really know. But unless you have money to burn, I’d hold off doing anything until a bit more certainty arrives.However, there is a big shortage of EVs and PHEVs, so don’t be surprised that if you go down that route, your options for the moment will be limited.They are very costly now and while you will probably get the difference back over five years, the cost to buy new will come down by 2023. However, by then the Government will have to make up the money it gets from fuel taxes in other ways.As the Government was putting out its climate change proposals, Kia Ireland was fortuitously launching its Niro EV SUV and Soul EV MPV. Both are very tasty propositions although their luggage space has been heavily compromised by the space taken by the lithium/ion/polymer batteries. Nonetheless, they have good space beyond that and are very easy to drive. The EV Niro has either a range of 289km or 455, the Soul has one of 452. Prices aren’t cheap; €33,495 for the lower range Niro and €37,495 for the long-range one and the quirky Soul.A better bet might be the Niro PHEV at €31,495 if you can get one. It is the sector bestseller and another 150 will go out of the showroom next month. PHEVs get VRT grants of €2,500, EVs receive €5,000 and both also get SEAI top-ups of €5,000 – all of which are included in the prices already given.I will be testing the Soul very soon and the Niro will follow, so I will hold back other comments. However, the Niro EV, especially, is getting massive thumbs ups from many of my colleagues abroad and while its sister, the Hyundai Kona, is the biggest EV seller in the country at the moment, the Niro has more room and has that seven-year warranty over the Kona’s five. Incidentally, Kia is guaranteeing that after that seven years, the Niro battery will have 70pc of the power it has on day one.***********The Volkswagen group was showcasing its wares to the motoring press at Mondello Park on the Friday before Kia’s and the Government’s respective launches. Again, much of the talk was of electric with Carla Wentzel, the new CEO of the VW group in Ireland, saying that she thought that new electric cars would make up 21pc of the Irish market in 2021 and that by 2025, 25pc of Volkswagen group vehicles will be electric. Automatic transmissions are also making massive inroads in our driving style with the number up 18.5pc over the first five months of last year.Representatives from both Seat, the “sunshine brand” with a 20pc increase in market share so far this year, and Skoda, which has entered the top five marques in the country for the first time, were in great form at Mondello. However, I had the most fun not by driving a car – the best of which was the new VW T-Cross – but by taking out an electric scooter around the racecourse car park. They are being given free with Seat purchases. That’s one way of going electric painlessly.**********Before I leave the debate, I want to draw attention to the Honda CR-V Hybrid which has prices starting at €38,200, although I was driving the very top-of-the-range 4WD version at €11,000 more. If I had the money and was after a family hybrid, subject to all the earlier caveats, it would be top of my list. I will come back to it but expect to see a lot of them about.**********And for those people whose nostalgia index is being upset by all the talk of ending petrol and diesel cars sales, they should hightail it out to St Columba’s College in Whitechurch, Dublin 16, today.There, the National Council for the Blind (NCBI) has invited individuals, families and car enthusiasts to the annual Des Cullen Classic and Vintage Vehicle Show, taking place from 11am-5pm in the college grounds.Joe McKenna, NCBI Head of Foundation, said: “Every year this show goes from strength to strength and this year we’ve over 200 cars on display including Bentleys, Triumphs and Minis. Our show is now a respected and popular fixture on the classic and vintage vehicle show calendar. We are grateful to the Des Cullen Classic & Vintage Vehicle Show for raising funds for NCBI since 1997, last year raising over €8,400 for NCBI services.”Des Cullen was a prominent figure in Irish motorsport and, following his death in 2017, NCBI renamed this long-running show after him to honour his commitment and support of this event.

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Explainer: Everything you need to know about owning an electric car in Ireland

In several ways, the Climate Action Plan raises as many questions as solutions for motorists. That is only to be expected given the scope and timeframe.But it means people are unsure of practical elements such as how and where will they charge their electric vehicle. What is it all going to cost you? What can you buy now – or wait for?Here is an attempt to deal with some of those issues.ChargingThe ESB maintains around 1,100 public charging points on the island, including more than 300 in the North. They are on the street, in public transport car parks and other places and are free. Most give a standard charge – it can take hours to ‘fill up’. However, there are increasing numbers of ‘fast-charge’ points. They will give you a big boost in 30 minutes. Both will ultimately incur payment.The European IONITY network will have six powerful chargers at key locations by the end of 2019.But more than 80pc of charging will be done at home. You get the charging unit set up and then apply for a €600 Government grant. It will not always cover the cost of the unit (typically €700-€800) while installation fees are extra. The plan lays down potential solutions for apartment dwellers but I’m not so sure it works in all circumstances. On-street parking is another difficulty; you can’t have a flex straddling the footpath to your house.Costs and incentivesWhat is owning an EV going to cost you? A lot less to run than a petrol or diesel. But – and it’s a big but – the Government will have to raise the money for the electric era due to the erosion of billions from excise duty on fossil fuels and lower VRT from cleaner vehicles (EVs).The Exchequer collected €2,433m in excise duty, €1.5bn in VRT and VAT receipts from car sales last year. Road tax came to €777.2m.While you may also avail of a proposed ‘scrappage scheme’ you will pay in the long run, in ways yet to be devised, costed or published. We will be paying for on-street public charging soon enough. VRT could be increased.Don’t forget either that, right now, Government subsidises EVs to the tune of €10,000 (€5,000 VRT rebate, €5,000 SEAI grant) and allows zero BIK on company cars. How long can that go on? Current incentives expire in 2021. Yet without those major incentives, buying an EV will be out of the question for most.More than 20pc of new-car sales in 2021 will be EV it is forecast. Can the Exchequer afford to subsidise them all?How to buy?It’s the same as buying an ordinary car.Most dealers sort out the rebates and grants and you pay the net price of the car after these sums have been deducted.What’s on sale and what’s on the way?Here’s a quick run-through of many marques showing what you can buy now. As you’ll see nearly everyone is getting in on the act, but most are ‘next year’ or beyond. Prices are after incentives have been included.Alfa Romeo’s Tonale goes on sale next year. Audi has the large e-Tron (€90,000-plus) and a smaller one coming. BMW has the i3 (€50,000 approximately) on sale, an iX3 SUV sooner and i4 later.The DS3 Crossback gets an electric variant early next year. And Fiat has a 500EV for 2020. Late 2019, Ford will have a Mustang-inspired electric SUV (600km range). Honda’s EV will be unveiled at Frankfurt in September.The Hyundai Kona (late €30,000s) has been highly popular here; a revised IONIQ is expected next month. Jaguar’s large i-Pace SUV is on sale (€84,000-plus) as are the newly arrived Kia e-Niro and e-Soul – from €33,000. Mercedes’s first electric car, the EQC, debuts later this year (from €80,000).There will be a Mini EV in 2020, while Nissan is adding a more powerful 62kw Leaf to the existing model (€30,000).Opel’s new Corsa will have an electric version in March. Peugeot’s 208 hatchback will have the option of an EV powertrain.Renault’s revised Zoe is due by year’s end while Seat’s first EV, the El Born, is due by the end of next year. As is Skoda’s first electric small EV. Tesla’s Model 3 costs from €48,900. Models X and S are already here. The Volkswagen e-Golf is on sale for some time. Next year comes the electric Volkswagen ID.3 (€30,000).On the forecourtsWhat does EV driving mean for garage forecourts? Circle K, for one, says it is working to facilitate a smooth transition to EV usage. It claims it has the largest number of high-speed charge points through its partnership with ESB.

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