The ambition set out in the national policy framework on alternative fuels infrastructure for transport, which was published in May of last year, is that by 2030 all new cars and vans sold in Ireland will have a zero-emission capability. The national development plan, which was published in February of this year, raised this ambition by proposing that no new non-zero emission cars will be sold in Ireland after 2030. A range of policies and measures will be required across the Government if this ambition is to be realised. Fiscal interventions to dissuade people from purchasing fossil fuel-powered cars will be needed, as will incentives to support the uptake of electric vehicles. Through the work of the low-emission vehicle task force, which is co-chaired by the Departments of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Government has expanded the range of supports available for electric vehicles. These incentives include a purchase grant, VRT relief, benefit-in-kind tax relief, a grant for the installation of home chargers, a grant for the use of electric vehicles as taxis and reduction in tolls for electric vehicles. In this regard, I welcome yesterday's announcement the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform of an extension of the benefit-in-kind relief for battery electric vehicles for three years.
The provision of charging infrastructure is critical to support the uptake of electric vehicles. In this regard, I welcome the publication last month by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, of its approval of the ESB Networks proposal on the future operation and maintenance of the charging network. This development ensures the continued operation and maintenance of the public charging network by the ESB and provides the certainty that users of electric vehicles need when they are purchasing electric vehicles. I would also like to highlight the role of the climate action fund. The first call for applications, which I launched in July, includes provision for supporting electric vehicle charging networks, along with a range of other project types. The deadline for applications has now closed. I can confirm that almost 100 applications have been received. The process of assessing these applications is under way. It is important that people are aware of the benefits of driving electric vehicles. That is why the Sustainability Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, launched an awareness campaign in April of this year as part of its electric vehicle public engagement programme. A dedicated website, www.drivingelectric.ie, has been launched.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The website provides answers to the questions drivers have about electric vehicles and shows people why they should consider buying one. Yesterday, the CSO published the numbers of new vehicles registered to the end of September. In total 1,208 new battery electric vehicles have been registered in 2018. This compares to 586 registered in the same period last year and 664 for all of 2017. There are now almost 4,500 battery electric vehicles on the roads in Ireland. While this is a relatively low base, I am encouraged by the growth we are seeing.