Still sucking diesel: Taxi drivers ignore Ross’s electric car incentive

Shane Ross’s scheme to persuade taxi drivers to switch to electric cars has been dismissed as a failure as newly disclosed figures show just seven drivers have taken up the grant since it began.

There are more than 20,000 taxis in Ireland.

The Minister for Transport announced in February €500,000 funding to jump-start the electrification of the country’s taxi fleet and said it would play “a significant role” in making Ireland “cleaner and greener”.

But figures released from the National Transport Agency (NTA) show just €43,000 of the money – less than 10 per cent – has been allocated.

In total, there have been 92 applications for the grants of up to €7,000 towards the cost of switching away from petrol and diesel.

Seven grants have been awarded to date, from among 34 provisional offers.

Vinny Kearns, chief executive of Xpert Taxis and former vice president of the National Taxi Drivers Union, said the scheme “unfortunately has failed”.

We are so far behind the eight-ball here as a country on electric vehicles – we are the second-worst adaptors to it in Europe

“I am an advocate of electric vehicles, I think they are the way forward, but the scheme needs to be better incentivised,” he said.

“The Minister could change the take -up straight away if he issued 500 new licences for electric vehicles.

“He could achieve more in one month than we have in the last 10 years.

“We are so far behind the eight-ball here as a country on electric vehicles – we are the second-worst adaptors to it in Europe. ”

Taxi Forum

Mr Kearns, who sat on the Taoiseach’s Taxi Forum, the National Taxi Advisory Council and EU transport committees, said under the current scheme he would have to take a car, which has already been paid for, off the road to make way for an electric car.

His company fleet has 560 taxis. Two of them are electric.

“If Shane Ross said taxi companies could apply for 30 new electric vehicle licences, I’d get 30 electric vehicles tomorrow morning,” he said.

Mr Kearns said hybrid cars, which are run on electric as well as petrol or diesel but are not covered by the grant scheme, are more attractive to drivers at present.

“Range anxiety remains a problem with electric vehicles,” he said.

A lack of education among taxi drivers about electric vehicles was also standing in the way of any significant switch away from petrol and diesel

“They say they have a range of between 200km and 250 km on a charge, but if you are sitting in a rank, the heater and radio on or travelling at speed on the motorway or to the airport, it reduces.

“Hybrid vehicles mean you don’t have to worry about that. If you run out of charge there will be a back-up. They also have a better range of vehicles and bigger vehicles.”

A “total lack” of charging points is another issue, but he accepted a lack of education among taxi drivers about electric vehicles was also standing in the way of any significant switch away from petrol and diesel.

Of the 34 provisional offers of grants, 17 were in Dublin, five were in Cork, two in Galway, two in Kildare and one each in Cavan, Leitrim, Limerick, Louth, Sligo, Wicklow, Mayo and Meath.

Tax clearance

Of the 12 rejected applications, three were because of incomplete applications, six applicants had no tax clearance and three were refused because they had been prosecuted within the last two years.

A Department of Transport spokesman said take-up of the grant scheme was “initially slow” but that the pace “is currently accelerating, with more electric vehicles sold in the first half of 2018 than in all of 2017”.

“This is a trend that the we hope to see continue as electric vehicles strongly contribute towards the national ambition that all new passenger cars sold in Ireland from 2030 onwards will be zero emission-capable vehicles.”

Other incentives for switching to electric include up to €5,000 VRT relief, €3,800 from the Sustainable Energy Authority towards vehicle purchase price, up to €600 towards the installation of a domestic home charger and up to 75 per cent discount on tolls and free on-street charging.

Nino Plevnik

I am an electric cars lover. I love our planet and want to leave it in good condition to our children. One of the good ways to do this is to reduce harmful emissions into the atmosphere. As a technical person I worked on computers, hardware maintenance and programming. Otherwise I like advanced technologies, music, books, movies, life and nice weather.

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