Michael Ingle wants an electric car but he’s put off getting one by the lack of usable charging points in his apartment block and neighbourhood, he says.
He lives on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in the Docklands. The nearest points for him are on North Wall Quay or Merrion Square.
Two blocks from his apartment there are two charging points that were installed in 2019. They could charge four cars, but they’ve never been turned on, he says. “They’re covered in black bags.”
Those electric-vehicle (EV) chargers were installed as part of a Smart Docklands initiative and were expected to be commissioned in 2020, a spokesperson for Dublin City Council said on Monday.
“Due to technical issues and the Covid-19 situation the chargers were not commissioned at that time,” they said.
Claire Byrne, a Green Party councillor, said that, as far as she knows, similar charging points, where the electricity is sourced from a lamp post, have been successful in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area. “So I don’t understand what technical challenges there were here.”
Dublin City Council has concluded that it’s not up to rolling out and running a network of electric-vehicle charging stations, so it has teamed up with the other Dublin local authorities to come up with an alternative strategy.
Meanwhile, residents like Ingle are trying to take matters into their own hands by getting charging points installed in their apartment-building parking spots. But they are running into obstacles too.
To help meet environmental targets, the government is pushing electric cars. But, says Ingle, “If it’s not easy, people aren’t going to move to electric cars.”
A New Strategy
“It has become apparent that local authorities do not have the resources to operate, manage and maintain a network of EV chargers,” said the spokesperson for Dublin City Council on Monday.
The four councils in the Dublin region have set up a working group to look at where, how, and by whom electric-vehicle charging should be administered.
They have commissioned consultants to put together a regional electric-vehicle charging strategy, said the Dublin City Council spokesperson.
In the meantime, the Sir John Rogerson’s Quay charging points are still not switched on, says Claire Byrne, a Green Party councillor.
“It’s a real shame, particularly for the Docklands, because obviously it’s the hub of global technologies,” she said.
The government is aiming to halve transport emissions by 2030. “That’s only nine years away,” says Byrne.
“We have really good grant systems in place for electric vehicles but the uptake is going to be slow until we have the right infrastructure in place,” she says.
“It is something we’re trying to work on at a national level. There seems to be a slow uptake from our local authorities,” she says.
There were 170 public charging points in Dublin as of December 2020, and 1,100 in the country.
A Dublin City Council spokesperson said the citywide electric-vehicle charging infrastructure has been transferred to ESB’s ecars division.
ESB “will take over the operation and management of the EV chargers on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay and have commenced works on upgrading the four charging points”, they said.
A spokesperson for ESB said the company is currently looking at a number of locations for the further roll-out of charging points in the city.
Craig Lawlor, who lives in an apartment block in Santry, says he has owned an electric vehicle for four years.
He’s never had an issue with not having the ability to charge it at home, he says. He passes about sixteen public chargers in his drive between home and the IFSC, where he used to work before the pandemic.
“I’d charge around twice or three times a week on North Wall Quay, and do most of the charging outside shops at the weekend,” he says.
But after he starts a new job and is going into the office, he’ll need to use the charging points on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, he says. “I can’t believe the lack of them in that region. It’s a bit of a shock.”
The working group with the four Dublin region councils has hosted “market soundings” with potential electric-vehicle charging providers, according to the Smart Dublin website.
Among the possible locations for charging points that interested providers were on-street parking, public car parks, facilities owned by councils, and multi-storey car parks.
Ingles, meanwhile, has been trying to pursue an option within his apartment building in the Docklands, he says.
He approached his apartment building’s management about installing a charging point at his car-parking spot in the basement. They were not keen, he says.
Stephen Byrne, the property manager of the building, says about ten residents have asked about installing electric vehicle charging in the apartment block.
ESB networks provide the infrastructure, he says, and there are issues around installing charging points in the basement.
“We’ve been told by ESB that they want to connect the charging points in the basement with the meter in the apartments,” he says.
“That could mean going up seven floors to the apartment, through seven layers of fire-stopping. It’s just not very economical or practical to do that,” he says.
Having common charging points for the apartment buildings would be difficult operationally, says Byrne. “It would lead to problems in terms of admin. It’s not the long-term solution.”
Lawlor says inquiring to his apartment management in Santry for a charging point was like “talking to a brick wall”. He’d even be willing to pay for it to be installed, he says.
But they told him it would be a fire hazard to have charging ports in the basement, he says. “But there are multi-storey car parks all around that have electric chargers, so I don’t understand why that’s the case.”
Without an accessible charging point in the car park underneath his apartment, or nearby, he couldn’t see himself buying an electric car, says Ingle. But he’s still really eager to get one.
Ingle says he delivers small bags of coffee around the city on his bike when he can, for his company 8th Corner Coffee.
But when bags are heavier, he drives to drop-offs in a petrol car. He’d like to switch to electric to stop polluting, he says.
“Walking down the street and there’s people polluting – and I’m guilty as charged myself when I’m in a traffic jam – firing out carbon monoxide into my children’s lungs,” he says. “I just thought, ‘There’s no need for this.’”