AS I SEE IT
BY MARIANNE HERON
“Yes, well no …maybe,” is not exactly an answer in the affirmative but it’s one that is used by South Africans when they haven’t worked out their answer. It covers all the options and it’s a turn of phrase I found myself using the other day when asked: “Have you thought about getting an electric or hybrid car?” Yes, I certainly have thought about an electronic vehicle (EV), or plug in hybrid (PHEV) it’s the responsible thing to do given the need to reduce carbon emissions to protect against climate change. There is no arguing with the point that transport accounts for the biggest share carbon emissions in Ireland: 40% in 2018. Well, no I haven’t given serious consideration buying an electric car YET not least due a recent experience. You might think that visiting a couple of open gardens would be stress free, but not it turns out, if the friend who was driving has an EV which has only a limited amount of charge left in her car. It should have been enough for the trip but we got lost and found to our horror that we were nearly out of juice. There were no charging points at the couple of garages we passed. There’s a lack of joined up thinking about the necessity for charging points if people are to be encouraged to switch to EVs and their roll out by the ESB and private operators is still too slow. There simply aren’t nearly enough chargers. A charge for a small EV will give you about 400km or less if you are going fast, have the windscreen wipers, radio or headlights on. Say you have to make a trip 260km or so Dublin Cork or vice versa, you will l need to recharge before you get home, which will take up to 40 minutes or twice that time if someone arrived at the available charger before you. There is a concern that EVs aren’t actually all that green or ethical given that the way manufacture of their batteries requires cobalt and lithium. Cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo where child labour as young as seven years may be used and workers lack protective equipment against toxins which can cause lung disease. Lithium is mined in South America and may be extracted by pumping water underground to flush out lithium causing environmental problems like subsidence and toxic waste. We need to know that mining companies are greening up their act. There’s also the question about what happens to discarded EV batteries which need to be replaced every six years or so. Maybe, like others on a modest income, I will make the switch when electric cars or hybrids are more affordable. EVs are still comparatively expensive despite an incentive of up to €5,000 off the Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) on a new EV from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland ( SEAI.) The cheapest models available cost around €30,000 and aren’t many second hand EVs available as yet. I have never bought a new car, the devaluation is like burning several thousand euro notes the minute you drive away from the car dealer’s garage. My current beloved wheels are only eight years old which is young in my car terms and there is something counter intuitive about scrapping a perfectly good vehicle when I am trying to be to be responsible and consume less. If I do change that’s not the end of the story, there’s the expense of a installing a home charger, the SEAI grant of €600 might go halfway towards that in a standard situation but it seems in my case the grant might only cover a quarter or less .