Cleveland Comhrá: Ireland’s EV Imperative

Cleveland Comhrá: Ireland’s EV Imperative
by Bob Carney

In the early 1900s, before the advent of the age of the automobile, a walk down the street of any major city could be a very unpleasant experience. Horse and ox manure was everywhere, puddles were not just water providing an unwanted fragrance to the air. Many times an over-worked or sickly animal that expired would be left in the street where it died, sometimes for days before it would be removed.

It’s no wonder the automobile was heralded as the answer to city pollution. As the population and nation’s economies grew so did the number of autos. Today there are over a billion on the roads worldwide.

Ninety-seven percent of all the scientists in the world agree that our climate is changing as a result of human activity. Alexander Von Humboldt warned of man’s impact on the environment as early as 1798; he could not have envisioned the effects of the fossil fuel age in manufacturing and transportation.

In 2019, fifty-one billion tons of greenhouse gases were released into the atmosphere. 2020 is estimated to be about the same, even with a global pandemic restricting manufacturing and transportation.

Worldwide, transportation is not the number one cause of emissions, although it is in America, just ahead of producing electricity. In the U.S. and some of the other advanced economic nations in the world, our carbon footprint has stagnated or even decreased. Almost all growth in emissions comes from developing countries.

But climate change is a global crisis requiring a global solution. Recall that old Irish saying, “We live in the shadow of one another?”

Transitioning to electric powered vehicles is not the complete answer in reducing carbon emissions. Transportation accounts for 17% of carbon emissions, manufacturing and producing electricity are higher contributors. Of transportation emissions, 47% comes from automobiles, suv’s and motorcycles.

In the U.S., the trucking and delivery industry is making a large investment in electric vehicles. Amazon, FedEx, DHL and even the U.S. Postal Service are already purchasing EV’s as replacements are needed in their fleets of vehicles. Every major automotive manufacturer has begun to phase out the development of fossil fuel powered vehicles. All are anticipating a shift in the methods used to produce electricity.

Currently, two-thirds of the power used to generate electricity comes from fossil fuels: oil, coal and natural gas, with hydropower, nuclear and renewables making up the rest. When zero carbon sources of electricity are available, EV’s will be a logical choice for anyone simply from an economic perspective.

If you’ve ever been to London or watched movies set there, you’re probably familiar with the iconic black taxis there. They’re based on the Austin FX3 from the 1950s, the high ceiling in the interior tall enough to accommodate a gentleman’s top hat.
For nearly fifty years, the purpose built taxi was manufactured by The London Taxi Co. In 2018, the company was purchased by automotive giant Geely, a Chinese manufacturer. They purchased Volvo in 2010; Lotus in 2017; and almost 10% of Daimler, the company that manufactures Mercedes Benz, in 2018.

They rebranded The London Taxi Co. as The London Electric Vehicle Company. They are the only taxi that meets London’s new clean air regulations requiring newly licensed taxis to be able to drive thirty miles without releasing any pollutants. Across Europe there are more than two-hundred low emission zones that levy charges on heavily polluting vehicles or outright bans them from certain areas.

In China, economic growth has enabled more consumers to purchase vehicles, increasing emissions in the very industrial country. The government is subsidizing electric vehicle growth in a number of ways. A license for a fossil fuel powered vehicle can cost as much as $10,000, for an EV, they give it to you. Policies to encourage businesses and developers to include charging stations in real estate development and existing factories and shopping centers have been implemented.

The goal is to have 40% of all vehicle sales to be EV’s by 2030; this will bring production costs for EV’s and EV batteries down worldwide. The benefits for air pollution, human health, climate change and national security are likely to be substantial enough to offset the projected transition cost of 0.1% of the nation’s gross domestic product every year.

Ireland is the ideal climate, terrain, and size to become a leader in EV’s. The national imperative is to limit sales of new vehicles to electric by 2030. Last year, although a poor one for auto sales, electric vehicle purchases rose, slightly over 4,000. Over half of them were in Co. Dublin.

The EV infrastructure is not as established away from Dublin. Cork, as an example, had the second highest EV sales, with 388. Investment is determined by averages and is directly affected by Dublin’s population density.

Rural counties in the rest of Ireland are progressing, and options for charging are being developed. Most people will continue to do the majority of their charging at home, where it is the least costly and the most convenient, provided there is access to power and parking, fairly simple if you have a home with a drive or off-street parking. Other options evolving include charging at the workplace or destinations such as supermarkets or hotels.

ESB e cars, based in Dublin, has been replacing existing standard AC chargers with DC fast chargers in towns across Ireland. They have installed new rapid charging stations in Sligo, Tullamore, Clonmel, Drogheda, Ballina, Clifen, Tralee and other areas. These are pay to use, and the company considers all requests for installation whenever a business case can be made.

One of the biggest concerns expressed about EV’s, aside from power from dirty electricity, is the range of the vehicles. The reality is very few people need to be concerned.

According to The Central Statistics Office, the average journey is 13.7 km (about 8.5 miles). In Dublin it is lower, just 9.5 km.
A KIA e-Niro has a range of 420km (261 miles) on a full charge, and as batteries and EV technology increases, so will range. Scientists are experimenting with sodium based batteries, which could be more eco-friendly. Battery cost has seen an 87% decrease since 2010, due tecnological advances and demand.

One last note, as I was researching alternative fuel sources for automotive use, I came across this statement on biofuels in a book by Howard J. Herzog entitled, Carbon Capture. “Because it is energy intensive to grow and process the corn used for biofuel under the US Ethanol Program, the biomass has a large carbon footprint. Many studies show adding corn ethanol to gasoline results in very little, if any carbon reductions.”

As travel opens up, I’m looking forward to my next trip and drive along the Wild Atlantic Way in my own rented EV.

*Bob Carney is a student of Irish history and language and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday at PJ McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhounds and Irish dogs orginizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hounds Morrighán and Rían and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be reached at [email protected]

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