Queues forming at Irish EV charging stations for free power, report finds

17 Oct 2016

EV charging cable. Image: Alex Tihonovs/Shutterstock

Despite Ireland’s low uptake in electric vehicles (EVs), a new report into the country’s charging infrastructure shows queues are already forming as people take advantage of free charging.

While there are now over 900 Irish EV charging stations spread across the country, the number of annual EV sales remains quite low compared to fossil-fuel powered vehicles, with less than 400 sold so far this year.

Yet the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is hoping that by the end of 2020, 20pc of Ireland’s road-faring vehicles will be powered by clean energy, equating to some 50,000 vehicles.

The Government is still trying to increase the number of EVs nationally by agreeing to continue VRT relief and grants for EVs and hybrids as part of Budget 2017, and even contemplating the opening of bus lanes to such vehicles.

But now a new report from the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has found that despite the low numbers of EVs, a number of public charging points are becoming clogged as drivers look to avail of the free energy.

One user charged 230 times in six months

Last year, the ESB released its pricing plan for public charging points to EV drivers, but following a less than enthusiastic response and low EV numbers, the ability to charge your car for free was maintained.

To see if reports of queuing were accurate, the CER analysed charging session data at one location in Dún Laoghaire that found that 1,118 charging sessions occurred in the second half of 2014.

These sessions all came from 111 different vehicles and the report found that on 40 occasions, a queue had developed based on time stamps that showed a quick ending of one session and beginning of another.

While the average user had less than a few dozen charging sessions at this particular charging point, one user dominated all the statistics, having charged their car a total of 230 times during this period.

Better off getting free energy

“Analysis of the data from Ireland’s [charging network] for the demonstration site has shown that queues are forming for fast charging,” the report concluded.

In discussing these findings, the CER has calculated that users who are avoiding charging their cars at home in favour of public charging points have an annual saving of €260.

However, it means that this developing problem of queuing will make it occasionally frustrating – at least until a fee is actually introduced.

“If the fee consists of a cost per unit of electricity consumed, and this cost is above the night rate price, then it would be anticipated that the EV owners would favour home charging,” the report said.

“If, however, a flat fee is used to access public charging, then it is likely that EV owners will try to maximise the use of public charging in order to justify the cost of the flat fee.”

A boon for EVs in Ireland was announced today (17 October) with the confirmation that Tesla is to open its first store in Ireland in 2017, with the opening of four charging stations of it own as well.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic