Wealth gap needs to be addressed to drive up EV sales


Ambitious plans for the so-called "green revolution", including the mass availability of electric vehicles (EVs) will count for little unless major supports and incentives are put in place to bridge the wealth gap.

That is according to one of Ireland's foremost experts on the subject, editor of IrishEVs.com Tom Spencer, who warned convenience, incomes, and geography among other issues all have to come into consideration as Ireland moves towards phasing out fossil fuel-powered transport.

US president Joe Biden last week issued an executive order to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 electric, which has been largely backed by US carmakers. However, the same carmakers warned such a target would require billions of dollars in government funding if it is to be successful.

In Ireland, Trinity associate professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Dr Brian Caulfield told the Oireachtas Climate Committee last month that in urban areas of Ireland, "there is the very real challenge of where to put charging spaces".

He added the average price of the top three selling EVs from the first six months of 2021, from Volkswagen and Tesla, was €43,000 excluding grants from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Government subvention in the EV market works and many examples from around the world show that when they are taken away, demand falls, Dr Caulfield said.

"The carbon projections for Ireland are clear in the transport field that we need to throw the kitchen sink at the issue to meet the 51% carbon reduction [in the Climate Bill]. We need to be clever in how we spend the available EV incentive funds," he added.

His comments were echoed by Mr Spencer of IrishEVs.com, who told the Irish Examiner that a wealth gap makes it more difficult to improve EV uptake.

"The big thing that still isn't being discussed about EV charging is that the vast majority has always, and will always, take place at home. This is where it is cheapest and least carbon-intense, but this also presents an issue for people who live in apartments or who don't have driveways.

"There's definitely something interesting in the idea of the location of chargers and the socio-economics of the area. It is a big fear of mine that we are pushing the so-called 'green revolution' without the necessary incentives and supports, which threatens to widen the wealth gap and increase energy poverty," he said.