Today (Feb 21st), SIMI published a report that calls for significantly increased investment in Irish charging networks in order to meet the increasing demand. Particularly towards the 2030 government target of 1 million EVs.

The report has spawned headlines from media outlets calling for “100,000 fast chargers” on the island to meet this future demand.

IEVOA agrees with the spirit of the report, but we would like to clarify some points made, and subsequent media posting.

From the outset, its worth defining who provides a charger. In our view, there are 3 distinct variants here:

  1. Home charger associated with a residential property where the bills are paid by an individual.
  2. Commercial charger associated with a business or commercial property, which pays for electric supply, and may be open for use by the public (e.g. in car parks).
  3. Public infrastructure specifically for utilisation by any EV driver, paid for by a tariff/charge applied to the driver upon using the charger.

The second tone-setting point worth making is our view on the definition of different chargers are:

  1. Standard, providing speeds up to 22kW. Typically found in residential, commercial or on-street.
  2. Fast, providing speeds up to 50kW. Typically found at commercial locations.
  3. High power, above 50kW. Typically found at dedicated hubs.

These are important distinctions, because while 100,000 chargers is a lot of infrastructure to begin with, not defining the breakdown of whether these are standard, fast or high power chargers muddies the messaging significantly. The SIMI report suggests that there should be a fast or high power charger for every 10 electric vehicles, referencing EU Directive. That directive suggests standard chargers. Where the IEVOA view would be that a much lower frequency of fast & high power chargers are required as home charging should be more common.

The IEVOA call to action for government is threefold:

  1. Incentivise home charging through affordable programs to install chargers through SEAI grants, but also increase the grants to make residential solar PV more affordable. This would take pressure off of public infrastructure providers for charging, but also take pressure off of the grid for vehicles that are charging, as well as creating a vastly more sustainable fleet of Irish cars.
  2. Create a strategic vision for where standard, fast & high power charging infrastructure should be located & invest from there. For example, a fast charger should be within 30km of anyone on the island, and 120km for high power chargers.
  3. Define a plan for the future of the national grid, inclusive of fast/high power charging demand. Norway, for example, has about 17,000 public chargers and their grid is built to account for 3,500 simultaneous high power charging sessions.

The incentivising of home charging should be a priority as 90% of EV owners will charge at home 99% of the time. Public infrastructure is required for local charging for the 10% who can’t charge at home, destination chargers at key sites, particularly for tourism (at hotels, tourism hot spots, etc.) & high power charging hubs for those on long journeys on our motorway network.

Ireland has approximately 2.3 million residential properties. To meet this demand, 1 million home chargers would be required by 2030. From today, that would be 10,000 domestic installs every month for the next several years. This represents a more damning issue for the switch to EVs.

Drawing from the Element Energy analysis, commissioned by the four Dublin councils, IEVOA suggests a national requirement of 3,200 fast/high power charge points in 320 locations (assuming 10 plugs at each site) alongside 40,000 public standard charge points, street chargers, by 2030.

SIMI’s report also notes, “given the indicative requirement for at least one public charging point per ten EVs outlined in the EU Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive [2014/94/EU] there is clearly a need for a further action, with a particular focus on rural areas, where infrastructure is often patchy outside the major national road corridors.” This confuses standard, fast & high power charging needs in this instance.

Moreover, the report states that “the European Commission aims to have 30 million EVs on the road by 2030 and estimates that 3 million public chargers will be needed to support them. By the same measure, Ireland would need 100,000 public chargers, with all new being fast chargers.The EU uses the term “chargers” while SIMI specifies “fast” chargers only.

One fast charger will meet the need of 12 standard chargers. Based on EU figures, for a population the size of Ireland, we might need 8,330 fast chargers. However, Ireland also has a much higher level of off-street parking than the average European country, where apartment living is the norm. Therefore, we need less public charging infrastructure. 

Overall, as mentioned above, IEVOA absolutely agrees with the spirit in which SIMIs report was published. However, the facts & figures are important in these discussions and we feel some of the numbers are out of proportion with what is actually required on the island as we see huge growth in EV adoption. There is a cost to deploying, maintaining, upgrading and supporting EV charging infrastructure; it is not a one-off cost. And it is a cost which will ultimately need to be paid for by those who use that infrastructure. For this reason it is crucial that this infrastructure is proportionate to requirements. Otherwise, we risk a legacy of poorly maintained and unsupported chargers in obscure locations. Anyone driving an EV for more than 3 years can paint a very bleak picture about charging infrastructure that was improperly maintained in the past, and we don’t want to go back there. 

Our concern with the elevated numbers is also that it potentially paints a stark contrast against the reality of driving an EV in Ireland; both today & in the future. Yes, the need for further infrastructure is badly required. But there is a common sense approach to how infrastructure should be deployed, against the backdrop of domestic charging infrastructure. And we strongly believe any decisions around infrastructure should be influenced by a move to make any charging as sustainable as possible. Solar PV is the low hanging fruit in most instances, but investment in wind or hydro energy generation and battery storage to take pressure off of the grid while delivering a sustainable, clean energy driven fleet of vehicles on Irish roads is vital.