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23 Jan 2022

Offaly County Council needs to prepare for the electric car wave

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Eight Destination Chargers available at Kelly's Resort Hotel & Spa, Rosslare, WexfordTT5204GS

Recently Hertz, the global car rental company, ordered 100,000 fully electric cars [EVs], with an option to order 100,000 more.  This first order is 25% of their fleet. Other companies will follow.  Imagine all the tourists, in rented electric cars, heading to or through Offaly.  Where are they going to charge, either on the way, or while touring in Offaly? And will there be tension between tourists, passing travellers and locals over Electric Car charging infrastructure? With only a handful of individual charge locations, Offaly is heading for trouble!

  

Local Pollution and Climate Change is a major concern.  Everyone aware of the global crisis wants to do something significant to halt Climate Change.  So, we need to look at the core problem and respond in a systematic way. There are four human causes of climate change, almost of equal proportion: our home heating; electricity generation (40% is already sustainable, wind mainly); agriculture/industry; and transport. In the next 10 years the only significant change we can make, to reduce our harmful emissions, is transport. As we change our cars regularly anyway, and are readily available, and the grid is getting greener every year, the transition to Electric Car’s is the only option.

 

And sales of electric cars are really taking off.  Look at these statistics. Remember, an electric car in the motor industry statistics is a car with a plug, including battery electric cars [BEV] or plug in hybrid electric cars [PHEV].

 

Market Change

There has been a substantial change in car purchasing behaviour in the second half of 2021.

 

In fact, by next St. Patrick’s Day, Norway expects to go 100% green, 100% of all new private cars will be electric. While Norway’s transition has been strategically planned over 8 years, drawing from their rather substantial sovereign wealth fund [the oil fund], their next door neighbour, Sweden, who has not used a major government intervention, is following fast behind Norway.

 

 

 

 

 

Local Infrastructure Needed

 

The big question for Offaly is what infrastructure is needed for the pending increase of Electric Cars in the county.  The big danger is that local Electric Car owners will end up competing for resources with tourists and other drivers passing through.

 

Most Offaly Electric Car Owners will charge at home, 99% of the time. These are the people with off-street parking.    With a population of 78 thousand people, and 90% with off-street parking, with a significant seasonal tourist industry, what public charging infrastructure will be needed in Offaly, by 2025, and by 2030?  Element Energy, a UK consultancy, was commissioned four years ago, by the four Dublin local authorities, to determine what Electric Car infrastructure was needed in the Dublin metropolitan area. I have deduced from their report a framework to determine the Electric Car infrastructure required by Electric Car drivers per 100,000 population [based on reaching 80% of Government targets].

 

The first useful output from this report is the language.  How do you describe what Electric Car infrastructure we need before determining how much is needed? There are two main categories of people who need public charging infrastructure.  First, local people who do not have off street charging.  The second group are visitors, passing traffic and tourists.

For the local people you need a mix of two charging options: Street charging [slow] and/or urban charging hubs [fast].
For traveler’s or tourists you need two charging options also: En-route hubs for charging [fast chargers at motorway/national route service locations] or Destination chargers [slow chargers at hotels, B&Bs or shopping centres etc].
 

Based on my analysis of the Element Energy report, I believe Offaly will need five urban charging hubs by 2025. By that year it will also need 57 street charging locations, five en route hubs and 45 destination charger locations.

 

TA charging hub [urban or en-route] means approximately 10 fast chargers in one location.  A fast charger can deliver between 50-300 units of electricity [kW/hr] in one hour. Typical charge time is 20 minutes.

A slow charger [destination or street charger], delivers six units of electricity an hour.  The average charge time is 8 hours.

 

This analysis gives a general framework for the local authority, Offaly County Council.  Their job, and biggest challenge, is to meet the Electric Car needs of both local people and tourists.  Offaly County Council particularly needs to plan for the peak, the peak of the tourist season, peak weekends like sporting finals, so as not to have unhappy visitors and unhappy locals.

 

Local authorities do not need to do everything, but they have four vital roles:

Find location for charging hubs and street charging;
Negotiate with Eirgrid to get power needed for those hubs, and;
Tender infrastructure providers; Ideally insist on a pay as you go, rather than provider apps and memberships. 
Negotiate with neighbouring counties to plan en route charging hubs.
 

Enroute Charging Hubs

Being in the centre of Ireland, Offaly is a key enroute hub for routes in Ireland.  Both the M6 and M7 pass close by Offaly and there are a number of busy N roads through the county. Offaly County Council also needs to coordinate with neighbouring county councils in Laoise, Westmeath, Kildare, Tipperary and Galway to ensure there are enroute hubs at key points in and out of the county. 

  


 

 

It is interesting to learn from the Norway tourist experience.  Their population is similar to Ireland but distances are much greater. Most of the en route charging hubs are in service stations and most have between 20 and 40 fast chargers.  The owner of the service station usually has the same number of Electric Car chargers as petrol pumps.  But they allow other providers to install fast chargers in their carparks, e.g. Tesla will often install 20 chargers, Ionity [owned by German car manufactures and Ford] put 6, and others 4-6 chargers each.  In Ireland, ESB eCARS could install some chargers and Tesla, Ionity and our own EasyGo would also invest.  Recently EasyGo received investments to install 500 fast chargers across Ireland. The UK company Gridserve, or Dutch company FastNed, could also invest.

 

Urban Charging Hubs

There are policy decisions needed to determine how best to serve the local population. How much local Electric Car infrastructure will overlap with tourist infrastructure? And does Offaly opt for more urban fast charging hubs than on-street charging or a combination of both? Given the 2 major routes that pass close to the county, charging hubs that serve both passing and local traffic would be a good investment.  

 

However, it would be unreasonable to expect people in Tullamore, Birr, Edenderry etc to travel to charge their Electric Car.  Serious consideration needs to be given to providing street charging in all towns in the county that would not have a charging hub. 

 

Offaly CC then needs to decide where they might put street chargers, These are slow chargers for local residents who do not have off-street parking. For some residents, who normally park outside their house at the footpath, a simple gully to allow a charging wire across the forthwith might be the cheapest solution. Another cost-effective solution is to put charging sockets in lampposts. As street lighting has been switched to low energy LED, there is plenty of capacity in the installed wiring to cope with 13a sockets.

 

 

Destination Chargers for Tourists and Visitors

While the adoption of Electric Cars by locals will be slower, there is a clear benefit for rental companies to switch first.  They change their cars every two years.  Electric Cars will cost 50% less to maintain and last twice as long.  Fuel costs for renters will be reduced by 70%. 

 

The greatest immediate need, therefore, is for overnight charging of tourists Electric Cars.  This is why “destination chargers” are a key element to the new charging infrastructure. Some hotels have installed a small number of destination chargers. 

 

 

But we will need 20-40 in every average sized hotel before 2025.  B&B’s will also need to install charge points. It is interesting to know that a standard plug will often be adequate.  It seems to make sense for every B&B to install at least one charge point [rated 6.6 units per hour] and several external sockets [typical 2 units per hour] and, of course, switch to day/night electricity tariff. Cost of overnight charge typically €5 per Electric Car.

 

Conclusion

Whether we are enthusiastic or not, whether we want to change to an Electric Car or not, even if we are an enthusiastic promoter of cycling, Electric Cars are coming to Offaly in large numbers and will require a significant investment in infrastructure by 2025 and a major ramp up until 2030.  The burden of cost will be spread between local and national government, private charge providers and private accommodation providers.  Nevertheless, it is 100% the responsibility of Offaly County Council to plan for the infrastructure and drive the adequate roll-out Electric Car infrastructure.  It is time for Offaly to drive forward sustainably.

 

If you have any questions about charging an Electric Car, please find a wide range of resources on the Irish EV Owners website www.irishevowners.ie.  We have a very active Facebook page with over 7000 participants.

 

Peter Bracken is an Offaly native, full time carer, retired professional rugby player and electric car enthusiast. He is a committee member of the Irish Electric Vehicle Owners Association.

 

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