ESB plans 1,500 public charging points for electric vehicles

THE ESB promises to increase the number of public on-street electric car charging posts 10-fold in the first quarter of 2011, as they prepare to roll-out infrastructure which will allow for the introduction of mass-produced electric vehicles to the State.

There are currently 25 public and 30 domestic charging points in place, but this will increase to 250 public and 300 domestic charging units by the end of March. This is set to increase to 1,500 on-street and 2,000 domestic charging units by the end of the year. This is according to Paul Mulvaney, the managing director of ESB’s ecars.

The coming weeks will also see the introduction of the first fast- charging units, which are likely to be placed at service stations on main routes. By the end of 2011, there will be 40 such fast- charging units in place. "We are testing various equipment at the moment, with a view to going to tender at the end of January to purchase 1,500 points or 750 dual-headed posts and we have started to install domestic ones already," says Mulvaney.

The ESB have signed a number of agreements with car firms in order to ensure that there will be an adequate supply of electric cars for customers, but with that in place there is now more work needed to ensure that everything works properly.

"Our part of the job now is to install the infrastructure and also design all the market systems so that when people are charging their cars that a single access card will be able to access any of the different charge points with the idea being that you buy some credit – maybe [euro]20 or [euro]30 – you have a card and swipe the card at the charge point and your account will be debited by whatever amount it used."

The average cost to charge a family-sized electric vehicle is likely to be around [euro]2 when charged at home on a night rate, while charging on the street will cost about twice as much during the day. In the second phase, users will be able to use the on- street facilities and be billed by whoever their electric provider is.

"Any supplier can supply electricity to any driver, it is not an ESB system – it is an electricity supply system," adds Mulvaney. On- street electricity is currently free of charge at the public charge points and this will remain that way until the ESB have all of their IT systems developed. "Our target is to have the IT systems in place by the middle of 2011."

While the placing of 1,500 public charging points by the end of the year might seem excessive, Mulvaney explains that this infrastructure is designed to be capable of handing increased sales of electric cars. "Our target by the end of quarter four is to have the whole system up and running. We plan to have 2,000 electric cars by the end of 2011 and 6,000 electric cars by the end of 2012 and the same infrastructure will probably be enough until about 2016 although we will continue to develop the IT systems."

With customers of the Nissan Leaf likely to be taking delivery of their cars in the first week of March, we won’t have to wait long to see if the ESB can deliver on their promises.

By Paddy Comyn,