Improving public transport services and infrastructure, including national bus, taxi and other public service vehicles (PSV) networks, is central to providing an alternative to private car travel. In Project Ireland 2040, the government has indicatively allocated €8.6 billion over the period 2018 to 2027 towards the delivery of an integrated and sustainable national public transport system. Furthermore, I have made clear my intent, and that of the Government, to drive the transition from fossil-fuelled vehicles towards greener fuels and technologies.
While the public transport network, including buses, taxis and trains accounts for only a little over 4% of Ireland’s overall transport emissions, moving to low-emission alternatives for public transport is important in order to promote and normalise the use of lower emitting fuels and technologies. Such technologies offer significant benefits in reducing carbon and other harmful air pollutant emissions, and also play a strong leadership role in addressing the effects of climate change.
A Green Public Transport Fund operates at a national level to support the piloting and uptake of energy-efficient and alternatively-fuelled technologies for Public Service Obligation (PSO) operations within the bus fleet and the Small Public Service Vehicles (SPSV) sector. It also helps vehicle purchasers to bridge the price differential between such technologies and conventionally-fuelled vehicles.
Under the Fund, I established the national Electric Small Public Service Vehicle (eSPSV) Grant Scheme in 2018, as part of a range of other incentives to support electric vehicles. The SPSVs supported under the scheme include taxis, hackneys and limousines. The scheme currently provides grants of up to €7,000 for battery electric vehicles and up to €3,500 for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
This initiative has resulted in the registration of 70 electric SPSVs to date. I understand that, to date, one such grant was issued to an SPSV driver resident in Co. Sligo. The scheme will be continued and expanded in 2020 and is open to applicants across the country. Recognising the important role that the SPSV sector can play in demonstrating electric vehicle (EV) technology to a wider audience I have also agreed, under the Climate Action Plan, to improve the value of the eSPSV grant to those transitioning to wheelchair accessible electric SPSVs. This will help to make electric vehicles available to a greater number of our citizens. Furthermore, I have secured €1.5m of funding in 2020 to install dedicated fast charging infrastructure for the SPSV sector.
In the Heavy Duty Vehicle (HDV) sector, e.g. buses and trucks, electric technology is not quite as advanced as it is for smaller vehicles. To assist the transition of the bus and truck fleets to low emission vehicles, I intend to introduce a new Alternative Fuels Heavy Duty Vehicle Purchase Grant scheme in 2020. Under this scheme, which will operate at a national level, it is envisaged that grants of up to 30% of the cost differential between a traditional fossil-fuelled HDV and an equivalent alternatively-fuelled vehicle will be available. Complementary supports such as introduction of a new reduced tolling incentive regime for alternatively-fuelled Heavy Duty Vehicles will also be introduced.