Recently Hertz ordered 100,000 electric cars, with an option to order 100,000 more, writes Eamon Stack. This first order is 25% of its fleet. Imagine all the tourists in rented electric cars heading to tourist hotspots in Ireland; where are they going to charge – on the way or while touring? And will there be tension between tourists and locals over the infrastructure?
At present, the charging infrastructure cannot manage peak travel. With EVs to reach 50% of new car sales next year in left-hand drive countries in Europe, we are heading for trouble!
Climate change is a major concern. Everybody that is aware of the global crisis wants to do something significant to halt it. Tralee and Waterville are precariously vulnerable to a sea level rise, so we need to look at the core problem and respond in a systematic way.
There are four human causes of climate change, almost of equal proportion: our home heating; electricity generation (40% is already sustainable); agriculture/industry; and transport.
In the next 10 years the only significant change we can make, to reduce our harmful emissions, is transport. As we change our cars regularly anyway, and EVs are readily available, and the grid is getting greener every year, the transition to EVs is the only option.
And sales of electric cars are really taking off. Look at the below statistics: remember, an electric car in the motor industry statistics is a car with a plug, including battery electric cars (BEV) or plug in hybrid electric cars (PHEV).
There has been a substantial change in car purchasing behaviour in the second half of 2021.
In fact, by St Patrick’s Day, Norway expects to go 100% green, ie, 100% of all new private cars will be electric. While its transition has been strategically planned over eight years, drawing from its rather substantial sovereign wealth fund (the oil fund), its next-door neighbour Sweden, which has not used a major government intervention, is following fast behind Norway.
Local infrastructure needed
The big question for each local authority area is what infrastructure is needed for the pending increase of EVs in the county. The big danger is that local EV owners will end up competing for resources with tourists and other visitors.
For instance, I was in Tralee in November and could not use the single fast charger as it was in use by a salesman from Dublin and a local man was in the queue. A one-hour wait to start charging is completely unacceptable.
Most EV owners will charge at home, 99% of the time. These are the people with off-street parking. In Ireland, it is estimated 85-90% people have it, with the majority of those who do not living in the urban centres.
Most counties have a population of more than 100,000 people – and 90% with off-street parking – so with a very significant seasonal tourist industry what public charging infrastructure will be needed by 2025, and by 2030?
Element Energy, a UK consultancy, was commissioned four years ago by the four Dublin local authorities to determine what EV infrastructure was needed in the Dublin metropolitan area. I have deduced from its report a framework to determine the EV infrastructure required by EV drivers per 100,000 population (based on reaching 80% of government targets).
The first useful output from this report is the language. How do you describe what EV infrastructure we need before determining how much is needed? There are two main categories of EV drivers who need public charging infrastructure. First, local people who do not have off-street charging. The second group are visitors and tourists.
- For locals, you need a mix of two charging options: street charging (slow) and/or urban charging hubs (fast).
- For travellers or tourists, you need two charging options also: enroute hubs for charging (fast chargers at motorway/national route service locations) or destination chargers (slow chargers at hotels, B&Bs or shopping centres etc).
Based on my analysis of the Element Energy report, I believe local authorities will need the following per 100,000 population:
To clarify, a charging hub (urban or en route) means about 10 fast chargers in one location. A fast charger can deliver between 50 and 300 units of electricity (kW/hr) in one hour; typical charge time is 20 minutes. A slow charger (destination or street charger), delivers six units of electricity an hour; the average charge time is eight hours.
This analysis gives a general framework for the local authority. Its job, and biggest challenge, is to meet the EV needs of both local people, passing traffic and tourists. It particularly needs to plan for the peak – the peak of the travel and tourist season – so as not to have unhappy visitors and unhappy locals.
Local authorities do not need to do everything, but they have four vital roles:
- Find location for charging hubs and street charging;
- Negotiate with EirGrid to get power needed for those hubs;
- Tender infrastructure providers; ideally, insist on a pay as you go, rather than provider apps and memberships;
- Negotiate with neighbouring counties to plan enroute charging hubs.
Enroute charging hubs
Looking at a map of Ireland we note, painting with rather wide brush strokes, the inland counties have the through traffic and the coastal counties have most of the tourists.
The motorways and national routes need enroute charging hubs. We have seen the construction of motorway service stations, some time after the motorways were completed. These are the very locations where we need enroute hubs. Currently, there is one eight-bay hub on J14 on the M6/7 and one eight-bay Tesla hub in Birdhill (N7 J27). This is totally inadequate.
And at the national routes traditional petrol stations, there are very few fast charging points and single units where they exist.
eCARS has a remit to instal 40 charging 'hubs', yet its current plan is to instal mostly two-bay hubs. EasyGo has received investment to build 500 fast chargers. We need to plan for much bigger infrastructure.
ESB ecars eight vehicle High Power Charging Hub at Junction 14 Mayfield, Kildare
It is interesting to learn from the Norway tourism experience. Its population is similar to ours but distances are much greater. Most of the enroute charging hubs are in service stations and most have between 20 and 40 fast chargers.
The owner of the service station usually has the same number of EV chargers as petrol pumps. But they allow other providers to instal fast chargers in their car parks, eg, Tesla will often instal 20 chargers, Ionity (owned by German car manufactures and Ford) six, and others four to six chargers each.
In Ireland, ESB eCARS could instal some chargers and Tesla, Ionity and our own EasyGo would also invest. The UK company Gridserve or Dutch company FastNed could also invest.
While organic growth might be cost effective, it will result in a piecemeal distribution of enroute hubs. Local authorities need to work with government to plan them and to explore when these type of hubs, especially for coastal and tourist counties, might also double as urban hubs.
Urban charging hubs
There are policy decisions needed to determine how best to serve the local population. How much local EV infrastructure will overlap with tourist infrastructure? Each local authority needs to decide between urban fast charging hubs or on-street charging or a combination of both?
Each local authority needs to map out the locations where citizens do not have access to off-street charging and provide alternatives. Urban hubs can be situated in public car parks or shopping malls.
Local authorities then need to decide where they might put street chargers, these are slow chargers for local residents who do not have off-street parking. For some residents, who normally park outside their house beside the footpath, a simple gully to allow a charging wire across the forthwith might be the cheapest solution.
Another cost-effective solution is to put charging sockets in lamp-posts. As street lighting has been switched to low energy LED, there is plenty of capacity in the installed wiring to cope with 13a sockets.
Six street light chargers available on Three Rock Road, Sandyford, Dublin
Destination chargers for tourists and visitors
While the adoption of EVs by locals will be slower, there is a clear benefit for rental companies to switch first. They change their cars every two years. EVs will cost 50% less to maintain and last twice as long. Fuel costs for renters will be reduced by 70%.
The greatest immediate need, therefore, is for overnight charging of tourists EVs. This is why 'destination chargers' are a key element to the new charging infrastructure. Some hotels have installed a small number of destination chargers. The Lake hotel in Killarney has four and Ballygarry house hotel even has a Tesla destination charger.
Eight destination chargers available at Kelly's Resort Hotel & Spa, Rosslare, Co Wexford
But we will need 20-40 in each hotel before 2025. B&Bs will also need to instal charge points. It is interesting to know that a standard plug will often be adequate. It seems to make sense for every B&B to instal at least one charge point (rated 6.6 units per hour) and several external sockets (typical two units per hour) and, of course, switch to a day/night electricity tariff. Cost of overnight charge is typically €5 per EV.
Whether we are enthusiastic or not, whether we want to change to using an EV or not, even if we are an enthusiastic promoter of cycling, EVs are coming to every local authority area in large numbers and will require a significant investment in infrastructure by 2025 and a major ramp-up until 2030.
The burden of the cost will be spread between local and national government, private charge providers and private accommodation providers. Nevertheless, it is 100% the responsibility of local authorities to plan for the infrastructure and drive the adequate roll-out of EV infrastructure. It is time for us to drive forward sustainably.
If you have any questions about charging over the EV, please find a wide range of resources on the Irish EV owners' website www.irishevowners.ie. We have a very active Facebook page with more than 7,000 participants.
IEVOA committee at Junction14 (M7 Monasterevin) enroute charging hub
Author: Eamon Stack BAI, BD, MPhil, MIEI and IEVOA committee member is a computer engineer based in Dublin. His main transport has been EVs for 14 years, upgrading battery packs with some engineering pals. He is head of policy with the Irish EV Owners Association, and co-founder and director of Range Therapy, a social enterprise supporting the adoption of EV in Ireland.