EV Demographics: Urban vs. Rural

From a weather and geography standpoint, Ireland is an excellent country for an electric vehicle (EV) takeoff. It is a small island; there is partial national ownership of electrical supply; the climate is relatively mild; and the landscape is EV friendly (there is no major mountain pass or tough terrain through which people must cross). Additionally, the distances between the major urban centres are short. Dublin to Cork, the longest, is only 259km.

So, if it’s not the terrain or weather conditions that is impeding the uptake of EVs, what is it? One potential answer is the rather extreme disparity in population and access to EV infrastructure that exists between urban centres and rural communities. Primarily, the disparity exists between Dublin and the rest of Ireland. 

Although not everyone may agree, Dublin is virtually the centre of everything in Ireland from population, to employment and investment. This type of concentrated hub of investment and resources at first best suited the early EV models that had a shorter driving range more appropriate for people living in an urban environment and travelling shorter distances than their rural counterparts. 

However, since the initial roll-out of EVs, their technology has greatly improved and Ireland has made a national commitment to switch to all-electric sales by 2030 in order to help meet its 2030 climate goals. This means two things: 1) that EVs can now accommodate the driving distances needed in more rural areas; and 2) that EV ownership is going to need to spread all across Ireland, not just in the larger urban cities. 

A little over 4,000 EVs were sold in Ireland in 2020 and over half of those sales were in Dublin (2,016). Cork (388), Kildare (215), Meath (164), Wicklow (165), and Galway (130) were the only other counties to reach three figure EV sales. Part of the problem is that much of the investment in EV infrastructure is based around averages, and the averages are heavily skewed by the density of the Dublin metropolitan area.   

According to the Central Statistics Office, the average driving distance in Dublin is shorter than the average driving distance for the rest of the country outside Dublin. Even the average driving speed is slower in Dublin than it is for the rest of the country. The longer distances and faster speeds do imply that there would be greater strain on an EV’s battery in the country than in the city. 

To accommodate the extra needs and strain that would be put on EV owners living outside of cities, the country needs to increase and improve the access to EV infrastructure in more rural areas. Rapid-charging points are starting to spread more throughout Ireland with new points in Sligo, Tullamore, Clonmel, Drogheda, Ballina, Clifden and Tralee. The increase in charging options to include charging at home, at work, on the street and at destinations such as supermarkets and hotels also broadens the accessibility of EV ownership. For example, charging at home may be difficult for EV owners in the city who do not always have access to a home driveway or garage or on-street parking. These owners may prefer to take advantage of the short travel distances within the city and choose to charge their vehicle at work or at a public charge point. Whereas in the country, charging at home may be the preferable option for EV owners who are more likely to have a driveway or a garage on their property where they could install an at home charger.  

As the EV market continues to grow and as EV ownership continues to increase, it is important that Ireland is conscious of its EV market outside of the major urban centres such as Dublin. Dublin will certain play a large role in the EV uptake, but if Ireland wishes to have nearly 1 million EVs on the road by 2030 and to switch to all-electric car sales by 2030 then it will need to ensure that its more rural communities are able to participate in the EV revolution. 

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As part of the Climate Action Plan, Ireland has committed to having nearly one million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2030.

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Energy Spectrum Ireland distils the essential elements of sectoral issues in a concise and accessible manner so that you can stay ahead of developments.

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