The Government knows its electric vehicle projections don’t come close to adding up

The Government hopes that 59% of the 1 million electric vehicles it wants on the road by 2030 will be sold between 2028 and 2030.

When the Government first released its 1m EV target in the Climate Action Plan published in May 2019, most of us in the car retail sector were surprised. When we looked at the numbers, they just didn’t add up.

1M EVs translated into an average of 100,000 EVs per year, every year for 10 years. This looked off given that the total new car market (all engine types) averaged 107,000 units over the previous decade and the EV penetration of the new car market was less than 5% at the time.

The numbers were a bit of a mystery to us so we decided to ask, very nicely, for a bit of detail.

First we asked the Minister for the Environment at the time, Richard Bruton, and his department. To say we were answered with hostility would be an understatement. Now, we know that we’re not held in the highest esteem and are tolerated because we collect so much tax, and we have had many poor experiences with “Official Ireland”, but the hostility we experienced was really new. In all that hostility, the only information we received was that the Department’s independent advisors, McKinseys, came up with the numbers. It appeared that the Department were intent on guarding a big secret.

The level of hostility and lack of any information on the numbers intrigued us, so we decided to go further and seek the report from McKinseys. We asked several politicians and nada. We then submitted several FOI requests and got a reply that no report from McKinseys existed in the Department, even more intriguing.

We searched the Dail records and found that the Department had paid several hundreds of thousands of euro to McKinseys, and so the mystery deepened.

We went back with another FOI request and eventually we got a summary report prepared by the Department of the Environment called “Decarbonisation Pathways for Ireland Summary of marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) as input to All of Government Plan to Tackle Climate Disruption June, 2019,” but we were never able to get the McKinsey Report the Department paid so much money for.

On Page 15 of the report we got some summary data on the breakdown of the targets which said:

  • 33% of all cars sold in the decade new and “used” (first time we heard used being included), would be EV.
  • EV meant a combination of Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV)
  • The annual average market in the decade would be 250,000 cars (new and used) per annum or 2.5m in the decade. The actual annual car market in the previous 5 years after recovery was 200k units, so market assumptions looked ok.
  • No significant increase in the total car fleet over the decade, replace the existing fleet.
  • From 2027 the majority of local passenger car sales should be EVs and part of the used import would have to either be shifted to local purchase new EVs or changed to young imported EVS

The number of EVs was officially made conditional on the size of the car market and fleet replacement was now official Government policy. We were thrilled and waited to see what positive policies we could expect and this is what we got:

  • Denial that fleet replacement is Government policy, thereby denying one of the principal planks of the Climate Action Plan.
  • Significant increases in VRT over 2 budgets making already expensive cars more expensive, thereby depressing the market, thereby reducing the annual number of EVs we get.
  • Charging 7% VRT on a BEV and limiting the value of the VRT rebate on BEV thereby charging VRT on BEV over a certain value €45k approx.
  • Eliminating the Grants on PHEV.

After all that, they doubled down on the EV numbers in the 2021 Climate Action Plan.

The industry looked on in bewilderment and wondered WTF was going on. We made detailed submissions to the direct Minister and other Ministers, the Climate Action Committee, the Climate Change Advisory Council, the Tax Strategy Group, etc, pointing out to all of the errors with their plans and we got zilch in return – not even an acknowledgement.

We in our naivety expected that once we pointed out their mistakes that they would act and correct their policies but no, nothing came back.

In fairness Colm Burke TD asked some parliamentary questions which allowed me to get data which enabled me to calculate the numbers of EVs per annum.

Low and Behold almost 60% of the EV target, almost 600,000 EVS, is concentrated in the last three years of the decade, 2028, 2029 and 2030. This means that the annual car market would have to hit 285,000 units for three consecutive years – a figure the industry has never even dreamed about.

This is why they were so keen to protect their secret as it allows them to claim victory, “our policies are working, look at us we are great one of the greatest in the EU.” They won’t be held to account, just like when, in 2008, they predicted 250,000 EVs would be on the road by 2020 and we ended up with about 5,000.

When you hear them bleating about this again, just remember the numbers and the measures they took to protect this secret right from the off. This is a massive deception and they know it.

We still don’t know the exact breakdown of the number of units split between new and used in each year of the decade but we live in hope that, like the Vatican, who eventually released the thirst secret of Fatima, they might eventually do the same.

This op-ed was written by Denis Murphy, the General Manager of Blackwater Motors, and is reprinted with his permission.

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