Climate change is one of the most important challenges facing Ireland today. Transport has a critical role to play in the national effort to reduce carbon emissions, as it accounts for about 20% of Ireland’s overall carbon emissions. Moreover, it is a sector where fossil fuel use is firmly embedded, and where travel demand is growing due to our economic recovery and growing population. As over half of all land transport emissions come from private car use it is clear that the maximum impact in emissions savings can be achieved by promoting modal shift away from cars where possible or the transition towards lower emitting vehicles.
Accordingly, analysis conducted during the development of the Climate Action Plan indicated that electric vehicles (EVs) are a key mitigation technology for Ireland. The Plan set ambitious targets of 180,000 EVs on our roads by 2025, and 936,000 EVs by 2030. These figures include all forms of EVs - be they big or small, or a car, van, truck or bus. While these targets are very challenging, they are indicative of the scale of transformation that is needed across all sectors if Ireland is to reduce national emissions and reach its legally binding emission ceiling in future years.
To help achieve a significant step-up in electrified transport the National Development Plan (NDP) sets out an indicative resource allocation of €200 million. Programmes are being funded by my Department and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, through the SEAI, to support and accelerate the necessary transition from conventionally-fuelled to EVs. Such supports include an EV Purchase Grant Scheme, a Domestic Charger Grant and the roll out of an extensive recharging network. Tax supports introduced by the Department of Finance have also been fundamental in establishing the current positive policy environment; EV drivers can currently avail of Vehicle Registration Tax relief, low Motor Tax and may be eligible for a 0% Benefit in Kind rate and an Accelerated Capital Allowance Scheme. Two further initiatives, funded by my department, that support EV uptake are the EV Toll Incentive (EVTI) Scheme and the Electric Small Public Service Vehicle (eSPSV) Grant Scheme.
Beyond electric cars, the potential contribution of other forms of electric transport to reduce transport emissions is considered. Indicative calculations by my Department estimate that replacing 10,000 daily car journeys with cycling, including on e-bikes, abates approximately 37.25 ktCO2 between 2020 and 2030 (assuming the replaced car journey length was equivalent to the average bike journey length in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA)). To contextualize this, the transport sector in Ireland emitted just over 12,000 ktCO2 in 2017.
In order to support the increasing numbers of people who choose cycling as their preferred mode of transport, including the increasing number of e-bikes users, €110 million will be specifically dedicated to cycling and walking infrastructure in our major urban areas under Project Ireland 2040. Key actions under the Climate Action Plan also underpin my commitment to increasing cycling as a mode of travel, including the establishment of a Cycling Project Office within the National Transport Authority and increased cycling infrastructure for Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.
The Cycle to Work Scheme also continues to encourage citizens to cycle to and from work. Under the scheme an eligible employer can buy a bicycle for their employees and the employee pays the amount, less the tax relief, over a period of up to 12 months through a salary sacrifice arrangement. Up to €1,000 can be provided for towards the purchase of a new bicycle or e-bike; this represents a generous contribution towards any commuter bicycle, but especially towards e-bikes, which are generally more expensive.
In considering the possible contribution of other small and lightweight EVs to the overall reduction of carbon emissions in the transport sector, it should be noted that any use of mechanically propelled vehicles in a public place requires insurance, road tax and a driving licence (Note: a bicycle that is equipped with an auxiliary electric motor with maximum continuous rated power of 0.25 kW and which is progressively reduced and finally cut off as the vehicle reaches a speed of 25 km/h or if the cyclist stops pedalling, is not classified as mechanically propelled vehicle and does not require a licence). Although e-scooters and other powered personal transporters fall under the category of mechanically propelled vehicles, it is not currently possible to tax or insure them as they do not fit into any existing licence category; therefore, their use on public roads or in a public place is strictly prohibited and the vehicle may be seized by Gardaí if they are used in this way. My Department recently held a two-month public consultation on whether to legislate for the use of these vehicles and I expect a report from that consultation in due course.
Finally, I am committed to seeking and assessing additional measures to reduce emissions within the transport sector on an ongoing basis; the mitigation of potential of small and light EVs will continue to form part of that assessment.