Ireland’s Climate Action Plan has a target to have 30% of private cars powered by electric by 2030 – or a total of 945,000 vehicles. And they have backed up this target by providing grants and incentives to encourage people to buy electric vehicles (EVs).
But are they targeting the wrong thing?
As an example, a climate-aware consumer might go out and buy an electric car, but then leave it in their driveway for most of the week. Private cars are generally parked up about 95% of the time. Whereas their next door neighbour works as a delivery driver using a diesel-powered van, driving around the city for around 8 hours a day, covering more kilometres in a day than the private car owner does in a week!
You can probably see where I’m going here. We would have a much bigger impact on transport emissions if we could get the delivery driver to go electric rather than the car driver, as the delivery driver is driving longer and further.
So, to get serious about transport emissions we need to stop counting vehicles and start counting distance.
Instead of targeting a 30% reduction in petrol/diesel powered cars, we should target a 30% reduction in fossil-fuel powered kilometres!
If we’re going to give grants and subsidies, then they should be targeted towards the vehicles that are driven the most, and therefore pollute the most. That’s mainly commercial vehicles, rental cars, taxis, and public transport. They are often driven all day, and by swapping them out for an EV there would be a much bigger impact upon emissions.
At the moment in Ireland we are offering grants of up to €5,000 for private cars that might only be used infrequently, but we only offer up to €3,800 for a similarly priced light commercial vehicle that may be used an awful lot more.