Electric car sales in Ireland drop 14% despite rise in overall new car market

Sales of regular hybrids are up 19.5% while plug-in hybrids rose 10.7%; even diesels are up 9%

Sales of new electric cars are down 14.2 per cent in the first three months of 2024 compared with last year, despite the overall new car market growing by 8 per cent.

Total new car registrations to the end of March were 62,807, up from 58,151 this time last year. However, EV passenger car sales dropped to 7,971 from 9,297 in the same period.

This compares with a 14.8 per cent rise in sales of new petrol cars, a 19.5 per cent rise in regular hybrid sales and a 10.7 per cent increase in petrol/plug-in-hybrid (PHEV) registrations. Even diesel sales grew, up 9 per cent on last year. So far this year, petrol accounts for 33.4 per cent of the new car market, followed by diesel with 23 per cent, hybrids with 22.77 per cent, electric with 12.7 per cent and PHEVs with 8.1 per cent.

Brian Cooke, director general of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry said the fall in EV sales “highlights the ongoing challenge of transitioning to electrification, as we move into the mainstream car market”.

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“The electrification of the fleet requires increased collaboration between all stakeholders to bridge this current chasm in the market. For the industry, this means investment and delivery of EV technology. For Government, this means increased support in terms of extension of current incentives, including purchase grants and benefit-in-kind relief for companies, and working with private enterprise to upgrade the national charging infrastructure, to boost consumer confidence in making the switch to electric vehicles,” he said.

David Savage, vice-president for Ireland and UK of fleet telematics firm Geotabs said: “Not only is there no hope of the Government hitting its target of having 945,000 electric vehicles on Irish roads by 2030, its 2025 ambition of 195,000 EVs is essentially reliant on fudging the numbers by including vehicle types other than battery electric vehicles [BEVs] – the only true zero-emission vehicles on the roads.

“At the end of February, there were only 66,942 BEVs with a current motor tax, effectively being outsold three to one compared to hybrids. These figures underline the strategic mistake of reducing grants for purchasing an EV.

“There is an urgent need for the Government to switch gears on its EV strategy into reverse, restore grants to their previous levels and introduce other incentives to jump-start the market.”

He suggested the Government should consider a range of measures such as a scrappage scheme for older, high-polluting vehicles; enabling free tolls for specific EV owners and tailored subsidies for lower-income households “as zero-emission vehicles are proving to be far too expensive in the wake of the cost-of-living crisis”.

The drop in EV sales comes as a new survey of 1,000 AA Ireland customers found more than 50 per cent would not opt for electric for their next car.

According to Jennifer Kilduff of AA Ireland, misinformation and lack of education in particular is influencing the likelihood of people transitioning to EVs.

“There seems to be a wave of misinformation being spread about EVs. We’re seeing many people being misled about the facts and real-world performance of batteries in electric vehicles. This is also having a knock-on impact for the used-car EV market,” she said.

“The AA Ireland survey found 53 per cent believed that EV batteries last less than 100,000km, which is about six years of driving for the average motorist in Ireland. This doesn’t align with the eight year and 160,000km warranties that many manufacturers are offering.”

Mrs Kilduff said she was quite surprised with people’s perception of EV batteries. “It is disappointing to see that these myths are continuing to circulate. Modern batteries have sophisticated battery-management systems that increase the life of the batteries to not just many years, but potentially a few decades.

“When they complete their purpose in cars, they will be used in energy-storage projects, before finally being recycled. It also needs to be pointed out that an EV battery is not just one big chunk of metal. It is made up of many modules that get combined into a battery pack. In most instances you would not replace the whole battery if there was an issue, you’d replace the individual module(s) at a fraction of the cost.”

The survey also found that 50 per cent don’t believe EVs are better for the environment, while only 22 per cent believe the Government is doing enough for EV adoption.

On the back of strong sales for hybrids, Toyota is the best-selling new car brand on the market this year, with 9,617 registrations, ahead of Skoda with 6,821, VW with 5,974, Hyundai with 5,802 and Kia with 4,462.

Despite the drop in new EV sales, Tesla registrations are up 23 per cent on last year, at 834, putting the brand in 17th place on the market.

The best-selling model on the Irish new car market is the Hyundai Tucson with 2,805 registrations, ahead of Skoda’s Octavia with 2,476, Kia’s Sportage with 2,127 and Toyota’s Rav4 with 1,923.

According to Zoe Bradley, head of marketing communications at Toyota Ireland: “Despite the continued popularity and familiarity of diesel which impacts the move to electrified driving, we’re seeing increasing demand from Irish motorists for a more environmentally friendly car choice like hybrid vehicles which immediately reduce CO2 and NOX emissions compared to diesel or petrol models without compromising on power and performance.”

At the commercial end of the market, normally a bellwether for economic development, van sales are up 34.1 per cent on last year, with 15,356 registrations, while HGVs registrations are up 21.1 per cent at 1,333.

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