RTÉ Prime Time Climate Show

RTÉ Prime Time Climate Show

This week, RTÉ broadcasted the first in a series of shows dedicated to the climate emergency. It covered a broad set of topics, and on the whole seemed quite balanced. As part of the show, there was a focus on electric vehicles as a route to help reduce emissions across the island. Something we are extremely passionate about. However, the primary method of discussing this came from a voxpop in rural Ireland featuring non-EV owners and a car dealer, with no balance provided from folks who understand, drive or work in the EV space.

IEVOA did not receive a reply from producers when we asked to participate ahead of time.

Despite the mostly positive tone on what individuals can do, there seemed to be a negative air around the discussion of EVs. Notably, Dr. Paul Deane from UCC noted that the government’s EV targets were “markedly ambitious,” ahead of a discourse where he said his EV is his second car, and for longer journeys he uses a petrol car. In a climate discussion such as this, IEVOA feels this is way off the mark, and far beyond the rhetoric we’ve ever heard before.

Irish households do not need to choose two cars in order to help reduce emissions and avoid a climate catastrophe. Modern EVs are more than capable of covering journeys across our relatively small island.

Another common point raised across the programme was that charging infrastructure isn’t good enough. An interesting point during a voxpop in Tullamore was raised when a member of the public noted that infrastructure isn’t visible enough. This is something we’ve thought of before, particularly where on-street parking isn’t denoted by appropriate signage or paint on the space. Or in car park, or forecourts, with multiple charging units where no signage exists. This is true even with Tesla or IONITY units, which do not explain to anyone what they are; the expectation is that if you need them, you know what to do.

Overall, the FUD we heard during the show boils down to the following:

  • Batteries won’t last long enough. Most modern EVs sold have a 50kWh battery, or more. On average, this provides a real world distance of about 350km. The greatest road distance on the island of Ireland is north-south, and is just above 300km.
  • EVs are too expensive. EVs represent change, and represent a step-forward in how we consider transport tech. If we had started with EVs in the early 1900s, we would never change to ICE. Any new tech is going to have some costs involved, but as it evolves the costs start to drop. Significantly, cheaper brands and models are coming to market. And the “first wave” of second-hand EVs are starting to hit with older Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoes providing a cheap access route to EVs. But nowhere in the program was total cost of ownership brought up, with cheaper options to charge (particularly at home) and a lack of maintenance needed with so few moving parts.
    • Worryingly, SUV prices was the only notable comparison used. While SUVs are a reality we need to deal with, reducing emissions also means reducing our footprint with the vehicles we drive. Moving away from SUV culture is important, and in fact, more efficient for most EVs. Smaller cars are better for the environment!
  • I drive a lot. This came up a number of times, where folks noted that they drive too much to ditch fossils. We reckon this is more of a comment on charging times. People still think that infrastructure is sparse, and that it takes too long to charge. The programme’s only mention of charging times was someone going from 0% to 100% in “20, 30 or 40 minutes.” When most people don’t do that on public infrastructure. On average people are putting enough juice into their battery to get to their destination, which for a modern EV means the time it takes to visit the bathroom and grab a coffee. And it’s easier as you pay at the charging device, not at a queue in a shop. Last year we ran a survey on charging habits, which might have been helpful to Prime Time producers!
    • Moreover, at no point did anyone emphasise that most EV owners use their home as the main proxy for charging. In fact, the only person highlighted had to come up with a wild solution to get a cable to their car in Dublin 8, where they do not own a drive. They did make a point that they only charge a few hours per week, but that was lost in the messaging around having to hang cables over the pedestrian walkway to get the cable out to the car.
  • Lack of incentives. We’ve been advocating for better/more incentives across the board. One, to drive better adoption of EVs in households. And two for businesses to make the switch with fleets. On private ownership, EV adoption needs to be coupled with home charging and solar PV installation where possible. A car charging in a driveway from the sun should be the absolute priority for the government. And it needs to incentivise people appropriately. Moreover, incentives should be there to encourage everyone to adopt EVs. The show highlighted the problem of EVs being seen as a suburban city dwelling luxury item right now. We need to ensure no one is left behind as this tech becomes more mainstream. Similarly, this needs to be a focus for rural communities.
  • PHEV emissions. One point made was that PHEVs can be a misnomer when it comes to emissions. Outside of slow moving traffic, PHEVs tend to run on their engines. And while a PHEV is better than a full fossil vehicle, they do not remove fossil fuels from the equation. There was a thought around driving style, and IEVOA would agree that this new tech needs to be coupled with education on the most efficient way to use it. 

Overall, the show seemed to have an uneducated approach to EVs. IEVOA did request to be involved ahead of broadcast, but did not receive a response from Prime Time producers. But, it is great to see the national debate rise and there being an acceptance that EVs are here, more efficient and a critical part of our climate fight. Alongside walking, cycling and public infrastructure, EVs will be a big part of how we reduce our impact on the climate around us.

EVs are new, and can be intimidating for folks. IEVOA’s mission is to remove that intimidation, educate folks and advocate for better infrastructure and incentives to drive an EV. We are here to help. Fossil fuel burning needs to disappear, and it will. New technology takes time to mature and become adopted by the mainstream, but we’re now passed the maven or early adopted phase of EV adoption. SIMI data shows we’re moving into a mature stage of EV adoption. And new cars coming to market are cheaper, more efficient and more in-line with what consumers expect.

In 2007, the idea that you would switch to a phone who’s battery lasts only a day despite having a lot more quality-of-life features was laughable. But today, almost no one uses a Nokia that lasts a week with no features. That’s where we are with electric vehicles. Now imagine sitting in a city or town, dining al-fresco with a coffee. Instead of the humdrum of diesel or petrol engines, and fossil emissions clogging your nostrils, there’s just the gentle whir of a battery or quiet tyres gliding along the road. No emissions disrupting your meal or coffee. That’s what we aim to have across Ireland.

Yes, there’s change to consider, and education from dealerships is poor. We aim to fill that gap as best we can and ensure folks can realise the full potential of these incredible cars while also drastically reducing their carbon footprint.

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