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Plans by the outgoing Government to ban diesel and petrol are causing confusion for people thinking of buying a new car this year, a senior motoring executive warns today.

Not alone is the planned imposition of a ban on the sale of new diesel and petrols from 2030 confusing buyers, it is, according to Toyota chief executive Steve Tormey, also in contravention of EU competition laws.

And Ireland is at risk of being told so – just like the Danish government has been already – thereby creating even more confusion.

Denmark made headlines in October 2018 when it announced it would ban the sale of all fossil fuel-powered cars by 2030, only to subsequently scrap the idea because it would have breached EU rules.

Mr Tormey says the same could apply to Ireland.

Against such a backdrop of pulls and pushes at home and abroad, Mr Tormey told ‘Motors’ that the much-heralded attempts to steer Irish motorists towards EVs are posing real-life headaches.

He claims people are being ‘rushed’ into buying electric even though it might not suit them yet.

It is also holding people back from deciding what to buy for what will be a major transition to electrification by 2030.

“The issue for the market place is choice of powertrain. Is it petrol or diesel or whatever? The thing is that electric vehicles (EVs) are still not right for rural customers especially,” he said.

Mr Tormey predicts that EV technology will improve significantly over the next few years, for sure, but that’s not of much use to motorists buying today. That chimes with his overall claim that some people are rushing to EVs too soon.

He maintains EVs should be “right when they are right”.

He cites Norway as being ‘right’ for EVs. But unlike Norway, where 95pc of electricity comes from hydro power, Mr Tormey argues: “You could claim that in Ireland we are forcing people to use dirty power (from coal) to drive an EV.”

As you would expect from the chief executive of a company with an overwhelmingly hybrid new-car portfolio, he is advocating much wider use of hybrids.

In Ireland alone, Mr Tormey says it has been estimated that the 11/12,000 new hybrids sold last year saved 60,000 tonnes in emissions.

“If everyone had used hybrid patents (24,000 or so) C02 and NOx emissions would be a lot lower,” he added.

He remains insistent that rural drivers are the ones most likely to suffer under an EV-or-nothing scenario in 2030. “For most rural drivers to get out of diesels and into EVs is not an option; the real-life choice should be hybrid.”

But if that is the case why did the Government take away the €1,500 incentive from so many hybrids in the Budget? He reckons it is trying to spread the load around other lower-emission cars.

“Politically it is easy to understand that an EV is a zero-emissions car,” he said.

He takes a different tack. “Because we’re not renewable like Norway, the ESB has worked out that when you are charging your EV in Ireland emissions come to 70 grammes every kilometre.” (A Prius hybrid emits 75g+). He feels it was too soon to announce the sweeping plans.

But EVs are the longer-term future, surely? So when can we expect the first mass-production EV from Toyota? “The first EV from Toyota will be 2023. Global demand for hybrids is such that we can’t provide EVs at the moment; we can make 50 hybrids for one electric.” And there is the expectation that next-generation EVs will have much more to offer.

Anyway, with all the uncertainty how will new-car sales go this year? “We think diesel and petrol will be 35pc/36pc (market share) each; hybrids 15pc and EVs around 5pc,” he said, adding he reckons hybrids will be part of the 2030 equation; he can’t see a way they will not be registered for rural Ireland in particular.

But right now: “We need to be careful about scaremongering people into buying EVs.”

Ultimately, Mr Tormey says, the best potential to achieve the Government’s 2030 Climate Action Plan goals lies in a mix of alternatively powered vehicles.

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