On 30th October 2021 IEVOA Committee members Peter Bracken and Simon Acton set off for COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in a fully electric VW ID3, kindly donated by Connolly Motors in Ballina.
Our intrepid team would be joining EV drivers from across Europe on the #RoadToCOP26 event organised by GEVA, the Global EV Alliance, highlighting the capabilities of electric cars and the urgent need to switch to electric modes of transport in light of the Climate Crisis and Air Pollution.
IEVOA Chairperson Simon Acton has provided the following summary of their 5 days on the Road to COP26.
Why go to COP26?
Following initial discussion with GEVA earlier in the year we decided it was important for IEVOA to participate in this event, both to help raise the profile of EVs here in Ireland, and also to learn for our counterparts in other countries, many of whom are further down the road than us with EV adoption in their own counties. We were also keen to network with key industry contacts in the UK, many of whom we have never had a chance to meet and who may be in a position to expand their operations into Ireland to help our EV adoption journey.
Day 1 – Castlebar to Falkirk
It was an early start for Peter, heading off from Castlebar in Mayo before dawn to collect me in Dublin before heading north. We’d be taking the ferry from Larne in Northern Ireland to Cairnryan in Scotland before heading on to our first overnight in Falkirk, a journey of some 700 kms including the ferry crossing. Not really a significant challenge for the ID3 with its 58kWh battery and 300km plus range, especially compared to some of our European counterparts who were travelling from as far afield as Portugal, Germany, Sweden and Slovenia! So, we donned our brand new IEVOA hoodies supplied courtesy of Susty Wear (sustainable, ethical and vegan clothing) and hit the road!
As Peter had already clocked up several hundred kms our first recharging stop was at Lusk on the M1 in North County Dublin. Time for a coffee and a quick chat with Inge who manages the IEVOA YouTube channel to help spread news of our trip amongst members.
After 45 minutes on the eCars rapid charger we hit the road again, our next stop being a meet up with the EVANI (EV Association Northern Ireland) group in Belfast including committee members Mark and Darren who we often speak with in our regular meetings as part of the UK & Ireland EV Alliance. More coffee but no charging required this time, which was fortunate with the rapid charger being very busy at the Shane Retail Park. Charging infrastructure in NI still has a long way to go, even in comparison with the Republic, but there is much expected following recent announcements by the FASTER project, EasyGo and eCars finally stepping in to upgrade their aging infrastructure.
After a quick stop it was onwards on Larne and the P&O Ferry to Scotland. At the port we were approached by an RTE correspondent on route to COP26 who took an interest in our road trip. We took the time to interview onboard the ferry and again to film a short piece after disembarking in Cairnryan but frustratingly none of this coverage appeared anywhere on RTE’s media channels. We consider this a significant miss by RTE, we can’t have been that bad!
After two hours on the ferry it was good to finally be on the ground in Scotland, but now it was time to charge so we headed for Stranrear just 10kms from the port at Cairnryan which has a number of rapid charging options. We were lucky enough to be provided with free charging for our time in Scotland at ChargePlace Scotland chargers, organised by our friends at EVA Scotland.
With a full battery we made tracks for Falkirk, a journey of around 200kms and 2.5 hours, as this is where we would need to be for events the following morning. We took the scenic route up the west coast as far as Ayr, enjoying spectacular views before heading cross country, skirting Glasgow then arriving in Falkirk in the early evening. We decided to check in to our hotel before heading out for a bite to eat and drink, via the super impressive charging hub at Falkirk Stadium for a top-up where we bumped into some of our fellow EV drivers from Slovenia. The Falkirk Stadium charging hub is a great example of what we need in Ireland, with 10 50kW rapid chargers and 16 22kW AC chargers, all under solar canopies. Croke Park are you paying attention?!
Day 2 – Falkirk & Glasgow
We were up early for breakfast where we met another EV team from the Netherlands before heading on to The Kelpies located in the Helix ecopark in Falkirk. The Kelpies are stunning 30-metre-high horse-head sculptures of these shape-shifting water spirits depicted in Scottish legend. It was a grim rainy morning but it didn’t matter, we were excited to meet all our fellow EV drivers and privileged to be allowed to take a photo opportunity at this spectacular location. Surrounded by like minded people from across Europe it was a truly inspiring, meaningful and somewhat emotional moment.
With our newfound friends in tow we headed to the next location, an EV meet at the Fourth Valley College, also in Falkirk. The rain had stopped at least so we had a chance to chat with all the other EV drivers and also have a good look around a fully electric coach which was making the trip all the way from the Eden Project in Cornwall, South-West England to COP26.
Peter with Ollie from Germany and Sveinung from the Norwegian EV Association
From Falkirk we headed in convoy to Glasgow and our first visit to the amazing Arnold Clark Innovation Centre who were hosting a reception for us and all the travelling EV drivers, including a live stream by EVA Scotland which included a presentation by the Norwegian EV Association where we learnt that new BEV sales now account for over 75% of car sales in the majority or regions in Norway.
The Arnold Clark Innovation Centre is a place you can visit to learn about and test drive electric vehicles in a non-sales environment, similar in concept to the EV Experience Centre in Milton Keynes. This is another example of something we very much need in Ireland.
Following the reception we headed out for dinner in Glasgow city centre with all the drivers and other participants from the Arnold Clark event, a fun evening hosted and paid for by GEVA, an incredibly generous gesture on their part. After this we headed to our hotel, The Argyll Western closeby to the botanical gardens in the north-west of the city. Accommodation had been hard to comeby in Glasgow so we were very grateful to Bridget Phelps from EVA England who had arranged for us to take a spare room from the Norwegians!
Day 3 – Glasgow
On Monday morning we returned to the Arnold Clark Innovation Centre for an event hosted by the International ZEV Alliance – Policies for a mature, flourishing and equitable EV charging ecosystem. We heard from speakers from GSMP (Global Sustainable Mobility Partnership), Cenex and Forth, gaining great insights about the thinking on EV charging infrastructure around the world.
After the event we had a bit more time to look around the innovation centre and take in some of the exhibits such as the VW XL1, a two-seater limited production diesel-powered plug-in hybrid. The XL1 was designed to be able to travel 100 km on 1 litre of diesel (280 mpg) while being both roadworthy and practical. It was a little small for Peter!
In the afternoon we decided to head for the COP26 Green Zone exhibitions on the south bank of the River Clyde. This should have been a short walk from the Arnold Clark Innovation Centre but this proved harder than anticipated. We found all roads blocked off by police cordons north of the river which meant it was impossible to cross the river directly, we would basically need to get public transport or drive. With the afternoon running out we decided instead to retire to the pub to develop a better strategy for the following day. In the evening we shared a great dinner with Bridget from EVA England before meeting with Sveinung Kvalø from the Norwegian EV Association and Fiona Howarth from Octopus Electric Vehicles for after dinner drinks.
Day 4 – The Green Zone & EV Cafe
On Tuesday we were back in the VW ID3 to drive to the COP26 Green Zone, it seemed that by circumnavigating the city we could find a way around all the road closures. We weren’t entirely sure if we’d get in due to having tickets for a different day but we managed to find our way through the significant security presence and into the exhibition area at the spectacular Glasgow Science Centre.
In the outside area we found lots of electric vehicle exhibits, but not just cars, also vans, trucks, autonomous vehicles, JCB’s hydrogen combustion diggers and the beautiful Rolls-Royce “Spirit of Innovation” fully electric plane.
While Peter focussed on the outside area I headed to the indoor exhibits which were incredibly varied in nature, considering all aspects of our lives being impacted by climate change and the innovation being leveraged to tackle it. Particularly poignant was an exhibit of melting ice core samples from the Antarctic with a timeline of significant climatic events uncovered by the study of these samples.
In the afternoon we headed back to the Arnold Clark Innovation Centre once more, this time for an event hosted by the EV Cafe, an awesome collective of EV industry experts. Before the event kicked off we had a little time on our hands so we decided to shoot some video of the huge range of electric vehicles on display at the centre available to test drive by the public. From memory this included: Honda e, Opel Corsa e, Skoda Enyaq, Mercedes EQC, Audi eTron, Hyundai Kona, Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq, Fiat 500e, Renault Zoe, Smart EQ, MG ZS, Kia eSoul, Tesla Model 3, VW ID4, BMW iX3, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Mercedes EQA. Literally an EV to suit every need.
The EV Cafe event kicked off with the hosts John Curtis, Sara Sloman, Paul Kirby and Sam Clarke on stage and also casting live on-line. Various industry guests were invited on stage to pledge what they and/or their organisation would pledge to do to drive EV adoption over the next year. Pledges came thick and fast from the likes of the AA, Gridserve and Geotab. Peter spoke from the floor and I got up on stage to pledge on behalf of IEVOA and my own business, Next Eco Car. For 2022 I pledged to double the IEVOA membership and to double Next Eco Car’s pure EV sales. The challenge has been set!
In the evening we were delighted to accept an invitation to a black tie dinner hosted by the EV Cafe crew and their sponsors. It was amazing to rub shoulders and share experiences with so many EV and Renewables industry luminaries including Jordan Brompton of myEnergi, Toddington Harper and Jerry Stokes of Gridserve, Dean Hedger from the AA and Graeme Cooper and Lorna McAtear from National Grid, to mention just a few. It was a fun evening with fun people and Peter even got to work on building an EV industry rugby squad!
Day 5 – The road home
After an inspiring, educational and fun four days it was time to head home to Ireland. Leaving Glasgow with a full charge onboard after topping up the previous day we charged again at Stranraer before boarding the ferry back to Larne. Following a minor mishap with directions in Northern Ireland we had to stop for a quick top up in Armagh on an AC charger before getting a final rapid charge at Castlebellingham on the M1.
All in all the driving and charging was uneventful on the trip, bar the lack of functioning rapid chargers in Northern Ireland following our directional mishap on the way home, but we’ll put that down to tiredness on the part of the navigator!
Aside from making a lot of new friends and connections we learnt a lot from the experiences of our fellow EV drivers in their own countries. Some are ahead of us and some are behind, but we can all lean on each other as part of the GEVA community and this will help us build our association into an even more influential player amongst our stakeholders in the public and private sector here in Ireland.
So what benefits can we expect to see coming out of COP? We were successful in adding our voice to calls to have governments, cities and companies from all over the world sign the COP26 Transport Declaration which states “Together, we will work towards all sales of new cars and vans being zero emission globally by 2040, and by no later than 2035 in leading markets.” The declaration was backed by over 100 signatories, including carmakers Volvo, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar Land Rover, as well as 33 national governments, regional authorities and companies including rideshare service Uber.
Closer to home signatories included Eamon Ryan on behalf of the Irish Government who said “This declaration is an important signal of ambition at a global level. In line with our Programme for Government commitments, Ireland has even greater ambitions, targeting a switch over of one million electric vehicles by 2030 to bring us on a trajectory to achieving electrification of all new car sales well ahead of 2035. The switch is happening, but the pace needs to step up if we are to meet our decarbonisation targets for transport. For that reason, we need all those involved, both on the supply and demand side, to commit fully and enable us to make it happen.”
What was disappointing was that some very high profile motor manufacturers refused to sign the declaration. Whilst it was no surprise that Toyota would not sign it was quite shocking to see some of the current key players in the EV market fail to sign including VW, Nissan, Hyundai and Stellantis. Whilst there are undoubtedly huge challenges in meeting these objectives, especially in developing nations, this leaves us questioning once again the moral compass of these organisations. From a national perspective the US, Germany, China and Japan all failed to sign, China or the US are the world’s largest and second-largest car markets.
You can learn more and see all signatories here: https://cop26transportdeclaration.org/
From a wider perspective, COP26 concluded with nearly 200 countries agreeing to the Glasgow Climate Pact to keep 1.5C alive and finalise the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement.
The Glasgow Climate Pact will speed up the pace of climate action. All countries agreed to revisit and strengthen their current emissions targets to 2030, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), in 2022. This will be combined with a yearly political roundtable to consider a global progress report and a Leaders summit in 2023.
The Paris Rulebook, the guidelines for how the Paris Agreement is delivered, was also completed after six years of discussions. This will allow for the full delivery of the landmark accord, after agreement on a transparency process which will hold countries to account as they deliver on their targets. This includes Article 6, which establishes a robust framework for countries to exchange carbon credits through the UNFCCC.
For the first time, heeding calls from civil society and countries most vulnerable to climate impacts, the COP agreed action on phasing down fossil fuels. COP decisions went further than ever before in recognising and addressing loss and damage from the existing impacts of climate change.
There were also commitments to significantly increase financial support through the Adaptation Fund as developed countries were urged to double their support to developing countries by 2025.
The final COP26 text follows two years of intense diplomacy and campaigning undertaken by the UK Presidency to raise ambition and secure action from almost 200 countries. Work focussed on driving short term reduction of emissions to limit temperature rises to 1.5C, mobilising both public and private finance, and supporting communities to adapt to climate impacts.