Ireland is facing a roadblock just like the one in a few of the country's European Union allies: sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are much lower than initially projected. While the goal had been to sell 2,000 units in Ireland by the end of 2011, only 192 have been sold so far. When the campaign was launched in Ireland, the target was to sell enough EVs to make up 10 percent of all new vehicles by the end of 2020. That would be about 7,000 cars a year at the current new vehicle sales rate.
Consumers have paid about 23,300 euros ($29,900 US) for every electric car sold so far. The Sustainable Energy Ireland agency has invested 573,600 euros ($735,800) in grants to buyers of EVs, which has helped reduce the cost for consumers. The Renault Fluence ZE is priced at 22,000 euros ($28,000), which doesn't include the batteries that must be leased separately. The Nissan Leaf costs 30,000 euros ($38,400).
As for other Irish government investments, so far about 3.9 million euros ($5m) have been spent on charging station installations for public, domestic and business use. The charging infrastructure is behind the initial target – 1,500 charging points and 40 fast chargers were to be in place by the end of 2011. As 2012 comes to a conclusion, 860 public chargers and 30 fast chargers have been installed.
To simplify the charging process, consumers now have access to a nationwide charger payment program. Ireland's Electricity Supply Board (ESB), which oversees the power grid, has teamed with IBM to implement a smart charging platform that enables drivers to roam across the country and pay for electricity using one card.
Automakers such as Toyota, GM, Volvo, BMW and Ford are introducing plug-in electric vehicles to ease consumer acceptance of the new technology, with the assumption these extended range vehicles will do better than pure EVs. How to bridge the gap with Irish consumers is still troubling for automakers and government officials.
To Paddy Comyn of Volkswagen Group Ireland, it's extremely difficult to reach consumers with new technology in its infancy during rough economic times. "This is especially true when finances are difficult and buyers need to be more careful about their purchases," Comyn told The Irish Times.