Time to Put Electric Cars to the Acid Test

Ireland is 99% dependent on imported energy to power its transportation system.

Published: 29-Jan-2010

Will the future really be electric? If so, does it actually matter? Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney believes the answer on both counts is a resounding Yes. Last year he authored a report called Drive for Zero on behalf of the joint Oireachtas committee on climate change and energy security. It offers a tantalising road map to a very different energy future for Ireland.

Transportation today produces more than one-fifth of Ireland’s almost 70 million tonnes of annual carbon emissions. This sector has been far and away our worst growth area, with transport-related emissions up 165 per cent since 1990. In that time, our national fleet of private cars has ballooned from 800,000 to two million. The average Irish car emits several times its weight – about 3.25 tonnes – in climate-altering CO2 every year. We are 99 per cent dependent on imported energy to power our transport system, spending €2 billion a year on liquid fuels alone, leaving us extremely vulnerable to any future disruption in supply.

Ireland, on the other hand, is especially well endowed with zero-emissions energy in the form of the EU’s highest average wind speeds. Electricity is, however, notoriously difficult to store, so having huge amounts of wind power available in the middle of the night when demand is low is currently of little use.

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The range limitations of most early electric cars will matter less in tightly packed urban areas, where the daily driving distance is likely to be much shorter than in the suburbs or rural areas.

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