I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 54 together.
The ESB, through its eCars programme, has rolled out an extensive public network of charging points across Ireland with approximately 900 electric vehicle charge points. We have one of the more comprehensive charge point networks in Europe for a country of our size. The maintenance and repair of these points is an operational matter for ESB eCars. Although there will be outages from time to time for technical reasons, ESB eCars operates the system to a high standard. This can be seen through the online map which shows the status of each charge point including if it is in use.
As battery technology develops, the range of electric cars will grow and higher capacity charging will be needed to support quicker charge times and longer travelling ranges. It is anticipated that large car manufacturers will become increasingly involved in the provision of high-powered infrastructure. A number of providers are likely to emerge onto the Irish market in the coming years. Nissan already has a number of charge points available through its dealer network and Tesla recently opened its second supercharger location in Ireland.
The provision of electric vehicle infrastructure, particularly the availability of public charging points, is a key focus of the work of the low emissions vehicle task force. The task force is co-chaired by my Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and is examining options for infrastructure, regulation and pricing in order to devise a sustainable policy framework for effective and efficient electric vehicle recharging.
The work of the low emissions vehicle task force led to a package of measures in budget 2018 designed to promote a low carbon, electric vehicle future. These measures include funding to support the operation and development of the public charging network with a specific emphasis on increasing the number of rapid chargers. The task force is also planning a stakeholder workshop later this month to explore issues related to the future requirements for electric vehicle recharging infrastructure.
Following a public consultation, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, last month published its decision on the future ownership of the electric vehicle charging network. A key outcome of the decision is that the charging network should not form part of the regulated asset base and therefore expansions of the network should not be funded from network charges. This is in keeping with the proposals published last year by the European Commission in the 'Clean Energy for All Europeans' package. The decision also sets out the need for electric vehicle charging infrastructure to operate on a commercial basis. Currently, recharging electric vehicles at public charge points is free and unlimited. Deputies will, however, appreciate that free fuel for electric vehicles, funded by electricity consumers, is not sustainable in the longer term. At the same time, it is important that if payments for the use of public charge points are introduced in the future, they are at a level which does not disincentivise the uptake of electric vehicles.
The low emissions vehicle task force has made a number of recommendations. The task force is also assessing the decision of the CRU in its examination of the future requirements for electric vehicle recharging infrastructure. The work of the task force is well underway and has already resulted in a package of measures in budget 2018 designed to promote a low carbon, electric vehicle future.