Can Irish EV Drivers rely on Public EV Charging in Ireland?

Between 2019 and the close of 2023, Ireland experienced a remarkable five-fold surge in electric vehicle (EV) sales, witnessing a surge in total models sold from approximately 4,800 to over 23,000. Consequently, the demand for public charging points across the island of Ireland has never been more pronounced. While the growth is encouraging from a sustainability standpoint, substantial work remains. As of now, Ireland still trails its European counterparts, with the total EV chargers in the country constituting less than one percent of the EU total.

At Wattcharger, our unwavering objective has always been to distill and deliver unadulterated facts concerning EV solutions and their impact on the Irish EV community. Today, we aim to provide a candid assessment of the state of public charging in Ireland, outlining the challenges and guiding EV owners on securing the best possible deal.

In January 2024, Ireland’s Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan, unveiled an ambitious €100 million strategy to fortify and expand the country’s network of public EV charging stations. The initiative seeks to elevate the number of charge points from 1,700 to 4,850 within the next three years. Furthermore, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, a body dedicated to promoting sustainable solutions in the country, offers various incentives for EV drivers. Further details on this will be explored later.

Understanding EV charge capacity necessitates familiarity with the unit of energy electric vehicles consume, known as the Kilowatt-hour (kWh). This unit can be grasped as the output speed of EV charger power into the vehicle.

The majority of existing charge points in the Irish Republic are owned and operated by the Electric Services Board (ESB). Among ESB’s public charge points, the majority are 22kWh Alternating Current (AC) chargers. Given that an average Irish EV has a battery size of around 36kWh, a full charge is achievable in approximately two hours using these AC charge points.

Direct Current (DC) charge points distinguish themselves from their AC counterparts in that they incorporate an internal converter. This implies that energy can be directly fed into the car without requiring internal conversion. Understandably, DC charging units are more efficient but are also a rarer sight on Irish roads.

Today, our focus will be on exploring the extent to which public EV chargers can be relied upon by the ever-growing number of EV drivers in Ireland.

Prevalence of EV Chargers on Irish Roads:


As expected, County Dublin leads the chart with the highest number of EV chargers, surpassing the combined count in 25 other counties. This alignment with population density mirrors the reality of Ireland but leaves residents in smaller, less populated counties with significantly fewer charging options.

Naturally, this figure correlates with the distribution of electric vehicles across Ireland. However, research from the Northern and Western Regional Assembly in late 2022 reveals that Dublin boasts more charge points than the combined total of Counties Donegal, Mayo, Sligo, Galway, Leitrim, Roscommon, Monaghan, and Cavan.

Given the stark geographic disparity in the world of EV charging, it's evident why owning an EV and relying on public charging facilities can be a demotivating factor, particularly for those in regions with limited charging options.

Moreover, the majority of these charge points operate on the relatively basic 22kW system, making the quest for a fast charger even more challenging. In late 2023, Tesla announced the introduction of their "Superchargers" in Ireland, compatible with various EV brands. Boasting an output of 350kW, these Tesla chargers can add an impressive 275km to the car's range in just fifteen minutes.

However, despite this advancement, with only 18 individual "Superchargers" in Ireland, most EV owners still have to rely on less efficient models. Out of these 18, only four are situated within the Capital City, prompting criticism from some residents:

"Why did Tesla choose to install only four Superchargers? Having merely four in the entire city of Dublin seems impractical, especially when there are two Tesla sites on the M1 in Louth at the same junction, featuring a total of 16 points. It raises the question of whether one site with a flyover connection would have sufficed. With a population of over one million people, relying on only four superchargers appears inadequate."

In this country, the prevalence of public EV chargers, especially high-quality ones, does not align with the government's target of having 936,000 EVs on Irish roads by the end of the decade. As we are about to explore next, the associated costs present another hurdle for owners from Dublin City to Dingle.


EV Charging Challenges and Solutions:


Similar to differences in food consumption costs between dining out and eating at home, a parallel exists in the EV world. Public charge points in Ireland come at a premium for those without home charging infrastructure. The cost at public points depends on membership status and the power of the charger in use. An EV driver shared on the EV Drivers Association on Facebook:

"I've owned an electric BMW for the past three years, but unfortunately, I lack a charger at my apartment block. When I bought my car, most chargers were free, and there weren't many electric vehicles on the road. However, charging at public stations has become increasingly challenging and costly. Currently, I pay approximately €0.27 per kWh with a subscription using a slow charger."

ESB offers membership at a monthly cost of €4.79 for EV owners in Ireland. With a minimum balance of €5 required, ESB members can utilize the public charging network at the following rates per kWh:

  • Standard Charge: €0.509
  • Fast Charge: €0.589
  • High Power Charge: €0.617

Non-ESB members face higher charges, with a minimum balance of €5 required, and the following rates per kWh:

  • Standard Charge: €0.563
  • Fast Charge: €0.647
  • High Power Charge: €0.682

While these numbers may not seem exorbitant initially, they can accumulate. Another concern for Irish EV owners using public charge points is compatibility. Most charge points in Ireland use Type 2 plugs, compatible with most EV models on the market. However, ensuring the use of the correct charger is an essential consideration.

A more frustrating issue is the wait times for charging points. An EV owner in Cork expressed:

"There are no designated 'wait' bays to facilitate reasonable queuing. While most drivers are reasonable, 'charge-rage' could become a potential issue. When I visited a charging site in Cork, both my car and the app indicated four chargers, yet only two parking spaces were available. That's misleading."

Due to the relatively new nature of car charging infrastructure in Ireland, planning for potential queues is noticeably lacking. Currently, no queuing guidelines or general use regime exists. This lack of planning can lead to the availability of an EV charger relying entirely on luck, causing a significant headache for EV owners across Ireland.

While the government's Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Strategy aims to address these issues by providing an electric car charge port every 60 kilometers, the uneven distribution of charge points remains a major hurdle. Despite government plans, some argue that the concentration of charge points at places like petrol stations and supermarkets is insufficient. Some even propose a legal requirement compelling petrol stations across Ireland to install at least some form of charger on their premises. As one online commentator suggested:

"I propose that every petrol station, based on the size of its courtyard, should be legally required to provide two or more high-power chargers. This brings to mind the concept of 'build it, and they will come.'"

For instance, despite partnering with ESB in 2019, the Tesco supermarket chain has faced criticism for offering only 22kWh chargers across its 52 locations in Ireland. Due to the extended charging time at these points, customers often find it impractical for their relatively short time in the shop. As one online commenter noted:

"The Tesco chargers are consistently busy. A 22 kW charger is a waste of time, and 50 kW is not particularly high power; north of 100 kW should be standard in many areas."

Despite valid concerns, Tesco and Aldi offer free charging to their customers, provided they patronize the store while their vehicles charge.

Although the SEAI is tasked with providing key infrastructure support and planning for the government's rollout of public chargers, the prevailing idea is that home charging is the true key to unlocking Ireland's full EV potential. In 2023, Declan Meally, the SEAI's director of transport, referred to public charging as "just a splash for a couple of minutes," emphasizing that 80% of EV charging should ultimately take place at home. While this may be discouraging for those without their own chargers, home charging proves preferable to relying on public charging in Ireland by various metrics.


Home Charging vs Public Charging:


Having explored the challenges faced by those relying on the existing public charging capacity in Ireland, it becomes evident that there are significant downsides to this approach. Therefore, it is crucial to acknowledge that home charging stands out as the best and most effective solution.

With a charger installed at home, concerns such as queues, compatibility issues, and accessibility become obsolete. For the EV owner equipped with a home charger, it's challenging to envision a more convenient setup. On average, charging a vehicle using a home charger costs about €0.24 per kWh. Considering the ESB rates discussed earlier, this figure represents a remarkable discount compared to public charging points, even for ESB members.

Among the common concerns raised by those contemplating home charger installation are the associated setup costs. While it's true that the average home EV charger can range from €600 to €1200, the SEAI acknowledges this and has implemented various measures to ease the financial impact of an installation. Homeowners using a registered party for charger installation can benefit from a €300 grant through the Electric Vehicle Home Charger Grant. This initiative aligns with the SEAI's objectives to promote home charging, discouraging over-reliance on the country's public charging infrastructure.

Another advantage for those with a home charger is increased control. Chargers like Zappi, the world's first solar EV charger, offer app integration, allowing owners to draw any desired amount of power from a renewable source like solar energy. For sustainability enthusiasts, options like Zappi provide an ideal solution.

In conclusion, the public EV charging infrastructure has a long way to go. While options exist for EV owners to rely solely on the public network, the isolated nature of the array coupled with higher costs makes home charging a more viable option. Despite bold claims from the government's Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Strategy about improving public networks, significant progress is still required. Real challenges persist, as evidenced by the experiences of Ireland's EV owners, and substantial changes are likely needed.

At Wattcharger, we strive to be transparent and candid in offering advice on EV chargers and renewable power. If the frustrations of relying on public charging stations become overwhelming, don't hesitate to reach out. Alongside providing industry-leading home charging models, we can offer invaluable advice to ensure that you, as an EV owner, can maximize efficiency on your renewable journey.


Blog Author: Adrian Dorney