In Raheny, an Electric Car Owner Finds She’s Living in a Building, and a City, That Aren’t Set Up to Charge It

Before Flaminia Curti bought an electric car, she checked with the property managers for her apartment complex, Watermill Apartments in Raheny, to see if she could install a charger by her car parking space.

They agreed as long as she did it at her own expense, she says.

“I would have paid for everything, obviously, because it’s going to be my personal car charger,” she said on the phone on Monday.

Once she had the car, though, and more details on what the installation would mean, the management company backtracked, Curti says, and later said it could be three years before a communal charger would be put in, because of other priorities.

“It was so frustrating, believe me,” said Curti. “Because, again, this is a major disruption for my life.”

The Department of Transport has said that to meet its carbon reduction target, Ireland needs to speed up a transition to electric vehicles, growing the 41,000 vehicles as of 31 July 2021 to 936,000 by 2030.

At the moment, the charging points just aren’t there to keep all those electric vehicles running.

Dublin’s four local authorities, and the national government, are both expected to announce, shortly, new strategies for rolling out a much bigger network of charging points.

However, a cycling advocate says this is all misguided: the government shouldn’t be funnelling money into this shift to electric cars, and electric car charging points, as electric bikes have a lower carbon footprint, and don’t even require special charging points.

Charging At Home

Without a charger at home, or close by, Curti says she has to drive to Dublin Port to charge her car for the week. “I stay there for an hour while doing meetings in my car,” she says.

There is a charger in Clontarf, she says, but it’s slow. And it’s always busy with others, says Curti.

“So I have to plan during my week the moment that I need to go and charge the car.”

Curti works from home, she says, and uses her car to go to the city centre or visit her partner’s house in Citywest. “Normal life.”

When she got her electric car, she had felt reassured, she says, by the seller and her property managers that having a charging point at home wouldn’t be a huge bother.

Curti contacted four or five companies to install a charging point for her in the underground car park.

Quotes came back at around €2,000, because her car parking space is far from the electricity meter, she says. “I was kind of expecting that.”

The cable would have to go through a few walls, she said, and break the fire seal, which would need to be resealed and recertified.

It would be worth it, she says. “Balancing out everything and you want to do something for the environment.”

“Obviously, then you’re not gonna pay for the petrol so all things considered, it is okay,” she says. “Especially also for the disruption to my life.”

She had been approved for a Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) electric vehicle home charger grant, worth €600, to contribute to the cost.

“The grant seems almost like a joke,” she says. “It will never completely cover the expenses, especially for people in apartments.”

The deal breaker for the building’s management company was that they would have to break the fire seal, says Curti.

“They said, ‘We don’t want to have companies in the carpark that are not approved’,” she says. Also, if she installed her own charger, others would do the same, and the car park would be full of different companies installing chargers, she says.

In August 2021, Curti asked if there was another solution. The property managers said they would look into it and consider a shared car charger, she said.

At the annual general meeting in February, Curti said the owner management company said it would not have a budget for a communal electric vehicle charger for three years as they had to spend money on painting the building.

“So I won’t have a charger until at least 2025,” said Curti.

Nóirín Nolan, head of estate management for Lansdowne Partnership Estate Agents, the property managers for the building, said on Tuesday that: “As with all developments, the owner management companies are considering installing EV chargers as progression is crucial.”

At their AGM, “members were advised of the many projects on the agenda which includes EV Chargers”, she said.

“Any member who has a personal request can outline all for the board with the specification no problem,” she said.

Charging, Where?

The government has been looking at a grant for electric-vehicle chargers for shared parking in apartment blocks and the like, said Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, in a written answer to a TD last November.

The Department of Transport hasn’t responded to queries sent last Friday asking whether that grant scheme is up and running.

That it is difficult for those in shared apartment buildings to install chargers would be less of an issue if there were more public charging points. “But also, there aren’t many chargers around the city,” says Curti.

There are no charging points in Raheny, she says. “With the population of Raheny, there is not even one charger, that’s not understandable.”

There are currently 1,900 chargers in the country, according to a report commissioned by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry.

If the government were to serve up charging points for 1 million electric vehicles by 2030, it would mean 100,000 fast charging points are needed in the next eight years, the report says.

“I don’t think anyone really thinks 1 million EVs by 2030 is feasible,” said Brian Caulfield, an associate professor of engineering in Trinity College Dublin, in an email on Tuesday.

“Also, given that about 50 percent of people don’t have driveways, these public chargers are needed, more of them and they need to be fast chargers,” he said.

Says Caulfield: “The government is pushing us to buy EVs and the public charging resource is just not there yet. It is like introducing a congestion charge without good public transportation.”

A lot of waiting happens at public charging points, he says. “The demand is there but the frustration to access charging is growing and this negative image could slow the transition.”

Last year, Dublin City Council concluded that it wasn’t up to rolling out and running a network of electric-vehicle charging stations in the city, and said it had teamed up with the other Dublin local authorities to come up with an alternative strategy.

The four councils in county Dublin set up a working group to look into how to meet demand for electric vehicle charging in the county.

They’ve prepared an electric vehicle charging strategy to figure out how to meet this demand up to 2030, said a Dublin City Council spokesperson on Tuesday.

It will be presented to Dublin City Council’s Climate Action, Environment and Energy Strategic Policy Committee shortly, they said – adding that the National Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy will be published later this week.

Another Path

Caulfield says the electric vehicle grant – which is up to €5,000, with a €60,000 cap – should be extended to electric bicycles, and they should get a bigger incentive.

“They don’t require a formal public charging infrastructure, they are healthier, have a lower carbon footprint and they won’t take up as much road space as a car,” he said.

Stephen McManus, founder of Bike Hub, a nonprofit social enterprise promoting cycling, said that grant incentives should be taken away from electric cars, and instead petrol and diesel cars should be penalised.

“And therefore there’s an implicit benefit for electric cars,” he says. “The ideal scenario would be where cars do not get any kind of incentives, and when it comes to electric bikes, I think they should be highly subsidised because that’s definitely part of the solution.”

Says Curti: “I wanted to do something good for the environment.”

In the underground car park, she can see another fully electric car and some hybrids, so she imagines others would be interested in installing a communal charger.

Someone suggested she install the charger without getting permission, she said. “It’s not really my style, so I didn’t even think about it.”

“I want to follow the rules. I want to talk with these people saying this is what I need, like, how can I do it?” she says. “I wasn’t really expecting like, a straight no, without any possibility to discuss it, you know?”

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Claudia Dalby: Claudia Dalby is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. She's especially interested in stories about the southside, transport, and kids in the city. Get in touch at [email protected]

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