I thank the committee for the opportunity to share the perspectives of ESB e-cars with it. The ESB's strategy, Driven to Make a Difference: Net Zero by 2040, sets out a clear roadmap for the ESB to achieve net zero emissions by 2040. It also commits the ESB to a science-based target for 2030 to provide assurance that we are decarbonising our operations at the necessary pace and scale. Our support of e-cars is one of the means we will use to help us achieve these goals. We are here to address the committee as representatives of ESB e-cars. Mr. John Byrne, head of e-cars joins me here today. We are mindful that the committee may have questions for ESB Networks on connections and related matters. As discussed with the secretariat, these will be addressed by ESB Networks directly in the coming months as we are not here to speak for ESB Networks.
I will give some background on ESB e-cars. The ESB established ESB e-cars in 2010. We believed that we could support the electrification of transport by seeding, developing and supporting the transition to electromobility. We recognised that charging infrastructure and support services would need to be in place to give citizens the confidence to purchase an electric vehicle. There was no onus on the ESB to provide the infrastructure, but it was a role we embraced given our commercial semi-State status and interest in supporting low-carbon technologies. ESB e-cars was established with three aims: to design and build an expanding public charging infrastructure for EVs across Ireland, thereby reducing the range anxiety that was an issue for early e-car drivers; to support the adoption of EVs in Ireland; and subsequently to stimulate demand for EVs nationally. In recent years, the demand for EVs has increased dramatically. Since ESB e-cars was established, we have expanded the network to provide ultra-reliable and fully interoperable EV charging with more than 1,350 public charge points servicing customers across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. There are three types of chargers on our network. The standard 22 kW is the most widely available charger on the network. They are geographically located so that an EV driver is always within 35 km of the nearest charger. These AC chargers will typically charge an electric vehicle in three to six hours depending on battery size. The fast charger is a 50 kW charger and we have approximately 150 of them. These are DC chargers and are substantially faster than the standard chargers. An 80% charge will typically take 45 minutes. The high-powered 150 kW chargers are located in hubs and are capable of charging two vehicles simultaneously. These units can provide the latest generation of EVs with 100 km of range in as little as six minutes. ESB e-cars is currently undertaking a €20 million investment programme to further expand and enhance the charging network across Ireland. The ESB qualified for €10 million in funding from the Climate Action Fund with the ESB matching the funding with a further €10 million. This comprehensive investment programme is expanding and enhancing the public charging network across Ireland to help to meet the expected growth in EVs in the coming years.
There are three different elements to the current investment programme. The first element is the replacement of 264 legacy standard AC chargers, and this is already 99% complete. The second element is the upgrade of 52 locations to provide fast charging; this is 75% complete and the remainder will be completed in 2023. The third element is to develop 52 high-power charging, HPC, hubs throughout Ireland, which can charge multiple vehicles simultaneously. This is a substantial component of the upgrade and will see 52 HPC hubs being constructed as we negotiate access to both motorway and national road sites.
Data-driven analytics help to identify and locate the most suitable sites for hubs. HPC hubs can charge up to eight vehicles simultaneously and can provide up to 100 km of electric driving range in as little as six minutes. To date, 18 hubs have been completed, with a further 11 in various stages of construction. We expect them to be completed in 2022, with the remainder to be completed in 2023. These works will significantly modernise and strengthen the charging network by upgrading all charging points in strategic locations to cater for all EVs, adding next-generation charging hubs to the network. We are committed to ensuring that our public charging network is reliable and that EV drivers have confidence in it. Since the commencement of our investment programme, our reliability rate has increased from 84% to an average of 98% this year.
ESB e-cars firmly believes that the transition to zero-carbon transport will require a whole-of-system approach. We need to see much more active travel - walking, cycling, etc. - and increased use of public transport. However, there is likely be a strong desire for cars given the particular demographics and geography of Ireland. Where this is the case, there are huge benefits in terms of both air quality and emissions from electric-powered vehicles. In addition to private transport, significant volumes of both light and heavy freight continue to operate in the country but will eventually need to be decarbonised. Electricity will therefore play an ever-increasing role here as battery performance improves and ever larger vehicles can be electrified. Therefore, in time, more charging infrastructure will be required to support Ireland to reach the target of almost 1 million EVs on the road by 2030, as reasserted in the Climate Action Plan 2021.
The first round of climate action funding has been instrumental in delivering additional charging locations, improved reliability, faster charging times for drivers and a substantial reduction in carbon emissions. The number of charging sessions on our system has tripled since the beginning of 2021 and we now reach approximately 70,000 sessions per month.
The ESB welcomes the recently published draft strategy, EV Charging Infrastructure Strategy 2022-2025. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to participate in the workshops hosted by the Department of Transport and to input into the development of the strategy, as we are doing today. ESB e-cars fully supports the strategy. There is of course much work ahead to build on this important strategy, which we understand will be led by ZEVI, which is to be launched soon. We look forward to collaboration with other stakeholders on developing the implementation plan to support the high-level strategy. We note that while 80% of current EV charging is estimated to take place at home, this proportion will decrease over time as the EV fleet grows and the demographic of EV owners shifts. In excess of 70% of EV owners are customers of ESB e-cars and we undertake regular customer surveys of our customer base. The prioritisation of smart home charging from the end of 2022 represents a positive development and should, over time, help to alleviate pressure on the electricity grid at times of high demand. The visibility that EV drivers will have of their charging profiles and energy demand will be further improved through smart meters, which will allow all customers to view their energy consumption in half hourly intervals.
Destination charging is a complex topic with widely varying dwell times depending on the situation and location. The strategy must allow for a variety of charging approaches depending on the situation, which typically requires case-by-case analysis.
We welcome the statement that the new ZEVI office will place a renewed strategic focus on delivering high-powered public charge points in heavily trafficked areas and along key parts of the national road network. Based on our analysis, we have already seen that demand for higher speed top-up charging is increasing with a greater number of electric vehicles on the road. It is unclear from the strategy as to whether local fuel stations that are not located on primary or motorway routes will be included for future funding rounds nor is it clear whether they will be classified as destination or en route charging. There are several hundred petrol stations across Ireland so clarity would be welcome around the treatment of these locations and whether these assets will be included in future funding rounds.
ESB e-cars would like to work with all relevant stakeholders to accelerate the timeline for the development of a pathway for the delivery of high-powered en route charging infrastructure on the strategic road network. This is currently due for delivery in quarter 2 of 2023. Earlier certainty on the requirement for this critical infrastructure will in turn allow for more infrastructure to be delivered within the period of this strategy. The sooner we have the strategy, the sooner we can deliver on these goals.
Further clarity could be provided on the destination charging point schemes funding, including who is eligible to apply. In addition, while individual landowners can apply for grant funding and then choose to run and operate the sites on an individual basis, this would have obvious implications for interoperability across the network. ESB e-cars would welcome the opportunity to input into a set of key criteria for EV charging locations.
Ease of use and charge point interoperability will be a key enabler to mass adoption. Electronic payments should become the default option at all charging locations. EU regulations will likely require this in time.
We note that the ESB Networks’ Dingle Project was successful in assessing EV uptake and attitudes to EVs in rural areas. The findings from the study were particularly informative from an EV perspective. Of particular interest was that the average daily distance driven was approximately 80 km and the willingness of customers to embrace and harness the new EV technology made available under the trial. Our existing charger network in Kerry saw an increased utilisation during the trial period and led to the roll-out of additional high-powered charging hubs in County Kerry.
The working groups and taskforce outlined by the strategy form a key part of driving towards delivery. It is crucial to engage stakeholders from across the full spectrum of consumers, industry experts, original equipment manufacturers, and the public and private sectors. ESB e-cars and other charging point operators should be facilitated in each of the working groups as much as possible because much of the delivery learnings have been acquired by these companies in recent years.
Most of the supports mentioned in the strategy are primarily capital driven. While capital investment is most welcome and required by the industry, due consideration should also be given to providing early support to charge point operators to contain operating costs. The period between now and 2025 is a particularly challenging period while national demand for EVs grows. A moratorium on capacity costs at locations with high electrical capacity requirements should be explored and implemented where possible.
ESB has made a significant commitment over the past decade to support and encourage the transition to zero carbon transport and EVs on a universal basis. ESB e-cars has grown to become the leading provider of EV charging infrastructure across Ireland. We will continue to play a central role in the provision of ever faster, ultra-reliable charging infrastructure across Ireland over the next decade. The electrification of transport and empowering and supporting customers and communities to achieve net zero will remain a key component in ESB’s strategy and commitment over the next decade.
Mr. John Byrne and I are happy to address any questions that committee members may have at this time.