ESB leading the charge for electric power cars
The Republic's largest electricity company is aiming to spark a revolution on the roads by helping make electric cars the dominant form of transport on the island of Ireland.
Senan McGrath, sustainability manager of ESB Networks, believes that Northern Ireland will benefit from the Republic's moves to get ahead of the trend by creating a viable infrastructure for electric vehicles.
"The Irish government has a target for 10% of all vehicles on the roads to be electric by 2020. In European terms that's very ambitious," he said.
"Certainly it is challenging, but the real point is that the target for 2020 is a statement of where we want to go. By 2050 we are aiming to have completely decarbonised road transport."
Agreements between the Irish Government, ESB, and car companies including Renault Nissan and Mitsubushi will see subsidies provided for electric cars, charging posts located around the country, and production of vehicles earmarked just for Ireland.
ESB will provide 1,500 charging posts for electric cars to re-fuel - 500 in Dublin and 1,000 across the rest of Ireland - by the end of 2011, with plans for a fast-charge point every 60kms on the main inter urban routes. Portugal is the only other European country with such an ambitious scheme in place.
It is expected that electric car owners will do 80% of the charging of their vehicles at home, but the charge points are essential as a full charge only lasts current models of electric vehicle for 100 miles.
Mr McGrath, who brought two electric vehicles to Belfast yesterday, has been advising the Northern Ireland team regarding development of infrastructure in the province.
"It is important that there isn't a different system north of the border. Car companies will want to make sure the infrastructure is compatible," he said.
"From Northern Ireland's point of view, the fact that there is such an extensive scheme going on in the Republic, and that a lot of car companies appear to be quite impressed with what we're doing, should help in getting availability of cars."
A submission of interest has been made by Northern Ireland authorities to the UK Government's OLEV (Office of Low Emissions Vehicles) for funding assistance. Three UK cities have already been granted approval - London, Milton Keynes, and Newcastle.
Northern Ireland is expecting an announcement at the end of this month on whether it has been successful.