Electric cars in Ireland: Can they save you money?

A yellow and black car attached to a plug

Electric cars are being sold as the vehicle of the future, but why exactly? What are the advantages and disadvantages of electric vehicles? Which electric car will give you the most bang for your buck? Electric or hybrid?


We’ve dived into the nitty gritty and done all the research so you don’t have to, in this comprehensive guide to electric vehicles in Ireland 2019. Electric car sales in Ireland in 2018 were up a massive 88% from the previous year, so the EV (Electric Vehicle) trend seems to be gaining ground. Key reasons cited for purchasing an EV include saving money and helping the environment, but do these stand up to scrutiny?


Can electric cars save you money?

A calculator

Although there can be a sizeable initial outlay, somewhat offset by the SEAI grant, there is no doubt that electric cars are cheaper to run and can save you a boatload of cash. Across the board, all associated costs are cheaper and incentivised.

Motor tax on EVs is at the lowest rate, €120 a year. When compared with the next bandwidth of emissions, at €170 a year, that’s a minimum of €50 saved.

VRT (Vehicle registration tax) is also tied to emissions, so fully electric vehicles benefit from a lower VRT rate of 14%, payable only if the car is valued at more than €35,714. This means that all of the vehicles in our cheapest EV selection would have €0 VRT.

Additionally, charging your car at home is much less expensive than paying for petrol or diesel. The average Irish private motorist drives between 17,000-24,000 kilometres a year. Even at the lower end of 17,000km, by using the ESB comparative cost calculator, we can see that the “fuel” cost for an electric car such as the Nissan Leaf would come out to around €215.73 a year, in comparison with €1,836 for petrol and €1,337.90 for diesel. A sizeable difference indeed.

As charging your car at home means the cost will simply be added to your electricity bill, it will be more important than ever to make sure you’re on the best tariff. Remember that switching energy providers every 12 months is crucial to get the best deal. Check out our page on Irish energy providers to choose the best provider.

Some electricity providers also provide interesting offers geared towards EV owners, such as Electric Ireland’s €149 deal for a home charger, which is a steal and will save you another couple of hundred euro.

Lastly, servicing electric cars generally costs around €80 less than with a traditional car. Under the EVTI (Electric Vehicle Toll Incentive) scheme, EV and plug-in hybrid drivers can also benefit from reduced toll charges, capped at a maximum of €500 off a year. For those of us who regularly have to use the M50, those charges quickly add up and a €500 a year discount is nothing to be sniffed at.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

A full overnight charge at home can cost as little as €2. If you have a detached garage or carport, or an unobstructed roof over where you park your car, you could also consider installing a solar panel to charge your car.

After the initial outlay, you’ll benefit from free “refuelling”, and some solar panel installations may also benefit from SEAI grants.

EV grants

A car beside piles of notes and coins

The SEAI provide several grants geared towards encouraging the uptake of electric cars in Ireland. For new electric cars purchased through approved dealers with price tags of over €14,000, grants of up to €5,000 are available (€3,800 if for a commercial vehicle). The amount awarded is tied to the price of the car, so you'll only qualify for €5,000 if your car costs over €20,000.

If you have checked out our section on the cheapest electric cars in Ireland, you’ll see that the vast majority of EVs are over the €20k price tag, meaning you’ll probably qualify for the highest grant.

VRT

Just bought a spanking new electric vehicle? Chafing in anticipation of the pain that comes from paying not only VAT, but VRT (Vehicle Registration Tax)? Well then you’ll probably be happy to know that you can claim back up to €5,000 of VRT.

As VRT is calculated on the CO2 emissions of any given vehicle, and given that electric vehicles obviously cause much less pollution and air contamination, the gig is up for the government levying environmental charges against these vehicles.

If you missed the boat first time round when you initially purchased your car, you can still claim back some of your VRT. Any category A or B vehicles purchased before 31st December 2021 can benefit from up to €5,000 VRT relief.

If you purchased your electric car or motorcycle outside of Ireland and are bringing it here, you will need to pay VRT on your new vehicle, so make sure you apply for an NCT (National Car Test) within seven days of the vehicle arriving on our shores.You’ll then be able to arrange a VRT booking, keeping in mind the discounted rates above. You can calculate your rate of VRT online so there will be no nasty surprises on the day.


Electric cars and the environment

Two hands cupping a globe of the world protectively

Detractors of electric cars have urged consumers to realize that EVs cannot be as green as they are claimed to be if they are still run on electricity generated by coal-fired power plants.

However there are a few issues with such a simplistic view, the first one being that it discounts the fact that every electric car removes a petrol or diesel-burning one from circulation, which also removes the exhaust fumes and emissions of that car. This means less health and environment-damaging greenhouse gases emitted.

Secondly, electric cars are more efficient and need a third less energy than a petrol-fuelled car to go the same distance. So although the car is essentially being fuelled by electricity generated from the same fuel it is meant to replace, it is using less of it.

Finally, there is also the option of charging your car using solar power, and truly having a zero emissions car, or indeed switching to a 100% renewable supplier.

On the other hand, it is true that the energy-intensive production required for EV batteries totals more energy than that required to produce a conventional car.

Verdict

Electric cars are definitely a step forward in the fight for a cleaner environment, and once in use are much more energy-efficient and cleaner to run. However more should be done to ensure that their fuel (electricity) is cleaner, and further improvements in the production process, particularly for the batteries, are necessary.


The best electric cars in Ireland 2019

Electric cars may be the wave of the future, but they’re certainly not the cheapest. Hence we’re sure you’d like to get the best quality car for your budget. Have a look at our selection of the best electric cars in Ireland 2019.

Car
Electric/Hybrid?
Rating*
Pricing from:
Jaguar I-pace Electric 8.3/10 €86,450
Audi E-tron Electric 8/10 €101,750
Nissan Leaf Hybrid/Electric 7.6/10 €26,290
BMW i3 Electric 7.6/10 €41,470
Kia Niro Hybrid/Electric 6.6/10 €31,095
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid/Electric 7.6/10 €30,445
Tesla Model S Electric 8.3/10 €81,086

In terms of ratings, the all-electric Jaguar I-pace and Tesla Model S win out, that is, if you have the cash to splash. But at nearly a third of the price for the top models, the Hyundai Ioniq and Nissan Leaf would be our best bets because of their value for money. If pricing is still a little steep for your budget, check out our section below on the cheapest electric cars.


The cheapest electric cars in Ireland 2019

Who said that saving the environment has to cost an arm and a leg? From 2018 the average spend for an Irish buyer on a new car has been upwards of €30,000, so we’ve found five new electric cars that come under or around that price tag. Check out these stylish and economical EVs (Electric Vehicles).

Car
Electric/Hybrid?
Rating*
Pricing from:
Renault Zoe Electric 7.3/10 €23,490
Citroen C-Zero Electric 8/10 €25,975
Nissan Leaf Hybrid/Electric 7.6/10 €26,290
Hyundai Ioniq Electric 7.6/10 €30,445
Renault Twizy Electric 7/10 €9,995

Before buying an electric car

A contract being examined with a magnifying glass

Keeping your budget in mind, there are several other important considerations to think about before purchasing an electric car.

Consider your lifestyle, with particular regards to your current usage of a car if you have one, and ask yourself:

  • How often will you be using your vehicle? Just for the home-to-work commute and back, or will you need to drive to several different locations during the day?
  • What is the average distance you drive in a day?
  • How much time will you have to charge your EV?
  • Where can you charge your EV?

All of these factors, plus our quick recap of the pros and cons of electric cars, should help paint a clearer picture of whether an EV is for you. The most important factors outside of budgetary concerns really just boil down to the range your EV will need to have, as well as what your charging options will be.

Pros and cons of electric cars

There is no doubt that electric cars are far cheaper to fuel (charge) and run, with less moving parts meaning shorter cheaper servicing. But are they really all that and a bag of chips?

Pros

  • Cheaper to fuel (charge).
  • Energy efficient - convert more energy to powering a car (around 60% versus 20% for petrol).
  • React very quickly and are faster to speed up.
  • Easier to fuel if charging at home - no more late night trips to the petrol station.
  • Very quiet - can reduce noise pollution in urban areas.
  • Reduced emissions

Cons

  • Very quiet - this can present a higher risk of accidentally hitting pedestrians in built up areas as they may step out in front of the car if they don’t hear it. However, some manufacturers are now installing artificial sound to ensure people notice the car’s presence.
  • “Range anxiety” - worrying about whether you have enough of a battery charge to complete your trip.
  • Lower-mid range models have short distance ranges.
  • Longer trips need to be planned around charger availability.
  • Take longer to “refuel” - it can be at least 30 minutes with fast charges, compared to just a few minutes for petrol or gas.
  • The batteries are very expensive, currently, warranty is only for 8 years, so this will have a large effect on the resale value of secondhand electric cars, although battery packs can also be rented.

Hybrid or electric?

A blue car on a green background

Having looked at the pros and cons of owning an electric car, you might be tempted to also consider buying a hybrid car. So how do they measure up?

What is a hybrid car?

Electric cars do exactly what it says on the tin - that is, they run entirely off electricity. Hybrid cars, on the other hand, work on the principle that different motors work better at different speeds. For example, electric motors are more efficient at producing torque (turning power) while typical petrol and diesel engines are better at maintaining speed.

Changing between the two then means more energy efficiency by using the best motor for the job at hand.

Hybrid cars are very much a compromise between the advantages of ordinary cars with combustion engines, and EVs. They consume less fuel and emit less CO2 than traditional cars, have more range, and are much less likely to leave you stranded should you run out of one fuel source, as you’ll have the other to keep you going until you can top up your car.

Hybrids come in two flavours; plug-in hybrids and traditional hybrids. Traditional hybrids rely mainly on petrol or diesel for propulsion, and get electricity from regenerative braking, while plug-in hybrids can be plugged in to top up their electricity levels.

What is regenerative braking?Regenerative braking is an energy recovery mechanism whereby the kinetic energy generated from braking a car can be stored to be used later. It improves the overall efficiency of a vehicle, extends the life of the braking system and is often found in EVs and hybrid vehicles.

The bottom line

If longer journeys and road trips are your thing, then you may be better off with the flexibility a hybrid car can offer you until electric cars catch up in their range offerings. However, while they do reduce your environmental footprint, hybrid vehicles are just not as clean as EVs and consequently do not benefit from many of the subsidies and grants that EVs do. Particularly traditional hybrid vehicles, whose environmental impact is much greater than that of plug-in hybrids.


How to charge your electric car

An electrical plug on a blue background

There are three ways to charge your electric vehicle, at home, at work (if your employer provides this option) or at a public charging station.It’s important to make sure it’s kept topped up, especially if the journey you’re making is close to the EV’s range.

In Ireland there are almost 1,100 public EV charge points, of which 87 are fast charge points that can charge your battery up to 80% in 40 minutes.

EV rangeThe maximum distance you can travel on a fully charged battery load. For example, if the range of your vehicle is 300km a charge, you’ll need to make sure you have enough juice stored up if you’re considering a longer road trip.

You can check out the nearest public charger online or by downloading the eCar connect app, available on both Apple and Android devices.

We do not advise relying on public chargers, however, as firstly you can’t count on them being available when you need to charge your car, unlike your home charger, and secondly, after charges being introduced on them in November 2019, it can cost six times as much to charge your electric car at a public charging point than if you had charged it at home.

There is also the possibility that in order to park your car within reach of a public charger, you may have to pay a parking fee, increasing the expense even more.

You will need to register for an ESB charge point access card in order to use public car charge points.

80% of electric car owners charge their cars at home, which is what we recommend, as it enables you to start your day with a 100% charged battery, and works out cheaper. You also don’t need to worry about whether your connector is compatible with your charging station or whether you have to sign up (to ESBs scheme for example) to be able to use your chosen method of charging.

Can I plug my electric car into a normal household outlet?

While technically you can just plug your car into a regular home outlet, it’s not recommended for safety reasons - an externally located outlet may present safety issues,for example when it’s raining, and using a regular outlet means that charging will also take longer.

Charging stations

Two orange electricity bolts with arrows going to and from two blue electricity bolts

No matter where you charge your car, the main thing to note is whether it is a level 1 or level 2 charging station. The charging station is what interacts with your battery connector to charge your car.

Level 1 charging stations are quite slow providing between 1-1.5 kWh per hour, and a complete charge could take between 8-20 hours depending on the size of your EV’s battery. Level 2 stations charge much faster, at a rate of 3.3-7.4kWh, meaning a complete charge can be reached within 3-8 hours.

Careful research is needed to decide which charging station will best suit your needs at home. A level 1 charger should be fine if you don’t make too any afternoon trips, and your battery is not too big. However, a larger capacity battery may be hard to keep topped up if it needs 20 hours of charging time from a level 1 charger.

It also goes without saying that if you are out and about, or at work and need a battery top-up to extend your range, then using a facility with level 2 chargers is a must.

Several home charging stations also come with smart features, such as remote control charging access (useful to limit who can use your charging station), insight into consumption habits, and the ability to set the battery to charge at cheaper off-peak hours. A home-charging station can cost from €899* upwards but is eligible for an SEAI grant of €600, meaning you’ll only end up €299 out of pocket.

*according to the latest prices from carcharger.ie

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