Thursday, 4 November 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
97. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to incentivise the purchase of electric vehicles by introducing a vehicle scrappage scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53212/21]
I thank the Deputy. Providing a sustainable low-carbon transport system is a key priority for the Department. The programme for Government commits to 7% average annual emissions reductions to 2030. Ultimately, the goal is for a zero-emission mobility system by 2050 and electrification will be key to achieving that in the transport sector.
EVs are the most prominent transport mitigation measure in the 2019 climate action plan and Ireland has set an ambitious target of 936,000 EVs on our roads by 2030. This target is challenging but indicates the scale of the transformation needed across all sectors if Ireland is to achieve its climate targets in the coming years. To this end, my Department has convened the electric vehicle policy pathway working group to produce a roadmap to achieving the 2030 EV target. The working group comprises senior officials and has considered regulatory, financial and taxation policies to help to drive a significant ramp-up in passenger EVs and electric van sales.
Scrappage schemes were discussed as part of these considerations. The working group considered the potential of this incentive but concluded that a general scrappage scheme would entail significant additional costs. However, the group concluded that niche market scrappage schemes could potentially play an important role, such as in the small public service vehicles, SPSV, sector. Furthermore, considerable progress has been made as a result of the work of the low-emission vehicle task force to ensure conditions and policies are in place to support citizens in making greener vehicle choices.
A comprehensive suite of measures is available to EV drivers, including purchase grants for private car owners and taxi drivers, VRT relief, reduced tolls, home charger grants, favourable motor and benefit-in-kind tax rates, as well as a comprehensive charging network. These measures have contributed to increased take-up of EVs in Ireland in recent years, albeit from a low base, to around 45,000
I thank the Minister of State. We sell 7,500 EVs per year and another 7,500 on top of that but it is 7:1 compared with diesel and petrol. We will not hit the target for 2030. The scrappage scheme is important because it will tackle the affordability anxiety people have. We do not have range anxiety in Ireland; we have affordability anxiety. The vast majority of people, even with the measures brought in by the Government, still cannot afford to switch to an electric vehicle. Something has been brought in for the SPSV sector. That is a good thing. There are other sectors and other ways of bringing this in. The Minister of State mentioned the word "niche". We can look at older cars. We can look at areas and at people living outside of public transport nodes who do not have access to bus and rail and incentivise them through scrappage schemes.
The other thing about a scrappage scheme that is important is that there is no use having an electric vehicle if the vehicle it replaces in the family home is sold as a second-hand vehicle and remains on the road somewhere else or is given to an adult child in the household. The emissions will be the same.
The Deputy made some valid points in relation to looking at other areas. Preparations are under way to establish an office of low emissions vehicles. This office will play an important role in our transition to zero-emission vehicles and will co-ordinate measures to support the uptake of EVs and the roll-out of charge point infrastructure.
In the context of rural Ireland, we spoke about Connecting Ireland, which concerns a public transport system across rural Ireland, but we have to be realistic. We will not have public transport in every area of rural Ireland. It is not feasible. We know this clearly. We need to look at ways to help people to move to a more environmentally friendly vehicle. I would like to see the office of low emissions vehicle looking at that. The move to electric vehicles will be a critical part in emissions reduction.
We are not there with a general scheme yet but it can be rolled out over the next few years and I hope it is kept under constant review.
I represent a constituency that has a large rural area. I also represent an awful lot of people who are on low incomes who live in those areas. People who are on low incomes cannot afford newer cars or even more fuel-efficient diesel and petrol cars. They are driving older cars with higher carbon emissions. This is where we need to look. This is where we can be brave and ambitious in the area of electric vehicles.
I commute by car and bus. I hope in the next few years it will be by electric car and bus, but there are people in my constituency who do not have bus access and they need their car. People with disabilities have no other option but to use a car. Incentivising them and bringing them in early to a truly affordable scrappage scheme so they can buy an electric vehicle would be in the spirit of what we are trying to achieve through COP26. What we are trying to achieve globally and nationally would be a really good tool for this country.
I agree that we must consider targeted measures based on service provision across the country. There will be people who will need a private car. The evidence is there regarding emissions reductions with electric vehicles. In particular where people have no other alternative, we must look at measures in that respect. I will not go into the grants. Deputy Duncan Smith is very well aware that there is going to be a concerted public service element as well, including for taxis. The public sector is leading the way. An Post, for example, has invested hugely in electric vehicles for its fleet. We must lead as well, but also look at supports and targeted incentives for certain sectors and regions that may need extra help.