Are we there yet?
Last week we paid a visit to Keary’s Renault for an E.V. education evening, for the (not so new) Renault Zoe. It’s worth remembering the Zoe is five years in Ireland this month, and yet most of us are uninitiated on the subject of zero emission cars.
‘Range anxiety doesn’t come in to it’ says Jeremy Warnock, Product Manager at Renault Ireland. Bold statement, given range limitations is the biggest qualm surrounding EV ownership. Dan Cronin (sales at Keary’s Renault) nods in profuse agreement, ‘I charge my Zoe twice a week’. With a claimed 317km (WLTP) range the Zoe currently holds the title as the most affordable long range EV on the market. But why haven’t we adopted it? The electric motor provides more torque than an equivalent city car to clamber up Patrick’s Hill, over the cobbles on barrack street and squeeze through never ending multi story car parks. Shouldn’t there be thousands of Zoe’s whizzing throughout the streets of Cork?
Well, for us ‘uninitiated’, myself included, we are contemplating EVs with a fossil fuel mindset. Which is understandable, considering standing on a greasy forecourt is how we’ve fuelled our cars for a hundred years. A 5-minute splash and dash at the pumps doesn’t come close to the 6/7 hour charge over night on a standard domestic plug. And you might just make it to Dublin with a full charge, (depending how many lorries you can tailgate to break the slipstream on the M8).
I find myself asking the question, how many times do we sit into the car and drive to Dublin? I can recount a handful of times in two decades. That’s where the ESB rapid chargers comes into play, scattered across most main towns and all cities and on the M8 at Cashel etc. where a 45-minute top up charge will give you enough range to make it with reserve to your destination. Hugh Hall from Epower.ie informs us that charging from home is how most owners brim the battery on their cars, the SEAI provide a €600 grant toward the installation of a home charger. You can set the car to charge at the night rate, past midnight through the morning, the car recharging while you do.
Wouldn’t it seem EVs require a change of lifestyle? Jeremy Warnock says ‘you treat the car like you do your phone, plug it in each night and use it throughout the day’. Most people don’t plug in every night, our driving habits are predictable, daily commute, shopping, back home, most owners don’t feel the need to charge every night, plus even more town centres, hotels and shopping centres are installing charging points to tempt EV owners to visit.
But back to the car in question, the Zoe itself is aimed at electro-sceptics, those who don’t buy the Prius style ‘look at me I’m saving the planet’ vibe. It is, an ordinary car. It’s very Renault, and a humble car at that. Although you can spend up to 37 grand on one with options (did we mention that?). that’s after the €6K grant from SEAI and €6K Vat relief from revenue. Will you? No, most would sooner spend that kind of money on a well specced out and predictable Audi A3 or the likes. the standard car sits at 25 grand after incentives which is competitive. A similarity can be drawn between EVs and broadband which was rolled out slightly before the demand curve. Once the infrastructure was there and functioned flawlessly, people subscribed and now we can’t live without it.