Dublin City Council is planning to cluster electric-vehicle charge points in off-street hubs rather than on streets, where they would add to clutter, Liam Bergin, a council executive manager, said Friday.
Right now, a lot of the city’s public charging points, run by ESB, are set up next to on-street car parking spaces, dotted around the city.
But the council projects that there could be 140,000 electric vehicles within the city by 2030, and that 30 percent of them would need to use public chargers as their owners wouldn’t have off-street parking outside their homes.
So the idea at the moment is to put these charging hubs in places such as car parks and petrol stations.
The council is going out to public consultation to ask where they should go, said Bergin, at a meeting of the council’s climate action, environment and energy strategic policy committee Friday.
A Network for Charging
At national level, there has been a flurry of activity to support the transition to more electric vehicles and away from fossil-fuelled ones.
Last week, the government launched its Zero Emissions Vehicle Ireland (ZEVI) office, to work towards its target of 936,000 electric vehicles in Ireland by 2030.
It also launched a grant for apartment-management companies and local authorities to install electric-vehicle chargers in apartment blocks, for residents who own electric cars but don’t have access to a charger.
There were already grants to help people buy an electric vehicle, for home owners to install charging points at their homes, and for local authorities to install up to 1,000 on-street public chargers.
The government is working on a national EV-charging strategy too, due to be published later this year.
After saying last year that it wasn’t up to rolling out and running a network of electric-car charging stations, Dublin City Council teamed up with other Dublin local authorities to find an alternative solution.
Along with the three other local authorities in the county, Dublin City Council has been working on a strategy for a network of chargers.
They estimate that the county will need between 500 and 2,430 public charging points by 2030, says the presentation given to councillors at the meeting.
The exact figure depends on what kind they are, it says. The more that are rapid charging points, the fewer would be needed, since people would come and go faster.
Where Should Chargers Go?
Not everyone in the city will be able to charge their cars at home, because they may not have a driveway, said Bergin, at the meeting on Friday.
But that doesn’t mean the council plans to put chargers outside their homes, or allow people to rig up their own cables.
The council’s draft development plan, which sets out the future vision for the city, commits the council to reduce street clutter that gets in people’s way.
The council’s electric-vehicle unit plans to stick to this objective, said Bergin. “Because otherwise what we’ll be doing is putting in thousands of street chargers while another policy will be saying we should be reducing them.”
The council also doesn’t want to deal with public liability issues that may arise if they let residents string charging cables across footpaths from homes to on-street parked cars, causing trip hazards, says a June council report.
Codema’s recent energy masterplan for Dublin raises another issue. Putting EV chargers on footpaths outside every home would instil car dominance over pedestrians, said the masterplan. “And completely ignores the overall strategy of promoting active travel and public transport over private car convenience.”
As part of its public consultation, Dublin City Council will be asking people to pinpoint a GPS location on a map of where they think a public charging hub should go, said Bergin, at the meeting.
These should be areas where hubs would fit, he says. “Schools, sports clubs, car parks, multi-storey car parks, surface car parks, churches, any of those locations.”
They’ll be looking at whether petrol stations can be repurposed, said Bergin, when it becomes more financially viable for these businesses.
“There’s a transition for those locations, you know, I don’t want to make it seem simple,” he said. “The cost of maintenance of these charging units is enormous.”
The council’s also been looking at whether chargers could be co-owned by a community, said Bergin.
The council doesn’t want to be responsible for any significant installation, operation or maintenance of charging points, says the Dublin electric-vehicle charging strategy, and won’t be a direct service provider, just an enabler, by putting the implementation and maintenance of the network out to tender.
Codema did sound a note of caution around the economics of charging points and the fairness of the transition, in its Dublin region energy masterplan.
“It is typically the wealthier car owners who will be able to afford larger homes with private off-street parking,” its report said.
“These car owners will be able to avail of cheap night time electricity rates to charge their vehicles, while the less well-off will be forced to pay higher rates to charge their vehicles at high-speed public charge points,” they said.
Running costs could differ by several hundred euros a year, they said, although all electric-vehicle drivers should be saving money overall when compared to fossil-fuel vehicles.
How Far to Go
Homes closer to the city centre are less likely to have off-street parking, meaning that if they opt for an electric vehicle, they would be reliant on these planned hubs.
At the council meeting Friday, Janet Horner, a Green Party councillor, said she struggled to think of spots in the centre where hubs could go.
“So there’s very little land available that I can particularly think of in the inner-city area that would be appropriate for installing this kind of infrastructure,” she said.
People won’t invest in an electric vehicle if they don’t have a clear idea of how they will charge it, she says.
Said Bergin: “If you have to have a car, we don’t want you parking on the street. We want it parking in a designated parking location, which will be a multi-storey carpark in an ideal way, for exactly as you say, so that pedestrians can use the street, public transport can use faster, rather than tying up two lanes essentially by having on-street parking.”
Michael Pidgeon, a Green Party councillor, says there should be a focus on a shift to bikes, walking and public transport, not just to electric cars.
“If you can’t play on your roads, if you’re hit by a car, it’s still going to hurt, regardless of the fuel source,” he says. “But that said, there’s obviously huge benefits to EVs in terms of air quality, to the problem with, in terms of carbon emissions.”
Mannix Flynn, an independent councillor, says he’s happy that the plan isn’t to add more clutter on the streets.
Hubs are easier to deal with, Flynn said. “If the technology changes then it’d be easier to flip that technology in those particular locations.”
Pidgeon says the hubs should be in places that don’t take away space from sustainable modes of transport. “That would be really wrong,” he says.
Bergin, the council executive manager, says the council wants to take its time helping to transition cars in the city to electric, because they don’t want to encourage people who don’t have a car to get one, even if it is electric.
“At the moment, about 60 percent of fuel we’re using to charge an electric car is coming from fossil fuels,” he says.
This figure would hopefully improve in the future as electric transport gets more efficient, he says, so a quick solution is not the best solution. “This is a very delicate balancing act, actually.”
“We have to proceed at a prudent pace,” he says. “There is a kind of a dignified pace at which we need to proceed in order to not to distort the market and create negatives unintentionally.”
Flynn asked whether there could be capacity for adding electric bike charging points to the network, particularly in social-housing complexes.
Bergin says they have been looking at this, because charging an e-bike inside an apartment is a significant fire risk. “We have been working with them, with the social-housing section, to address that.”