Irish Electric Vehicles Owners Association
This week we find out more about the Irish EV Owners Association, who represent electric vehicle owners and driver in Ireland.

In this interview we meet Simon Acton, Chair of the Irish Electric Vehicle Owners Association (IEVOA), who represent electric vehicle owners and drivers in Ireland.

1) Can you introduce yourself and the club to our readers? 
I’m Simon Acton, the current Chair of the Irish Electric Vehicle Owners Association (IEVOA). I am also Managing Director of my own business, Next Eco Car, which specialises in selling and sourcing used EVs and Hybrids in Ireland. The IEVOA was established in 2015 to: represent the interests of Electric Vehicle (EV) owners and drivers across the island of Ireland; help encourage the widespread uptake of EVs throughout the island; work with vehicle manufacturers, dealers, Public and Private Charger infrastructure owners or managers, Government bodies, County Councils and all other stakeholders to further the aims of the Association; promote and hold events for EV Owners/Drivers; and maintain an online presence to facilitate information exchange and membership. We have a committee, currently of ten, who meet monthly to drive this agenda forward, all of who give their time freely. We welcome all EV owners and drivers in Ireland to become members. We currently have around 1500 members and almost 5000 engaging in our associated Facebook group.

Simon Acton, Chair of the IEVOA, and the Renault ZOE
Simon Acton, Chair of the IEVOA, and the Renault ZOE

2) What are the benefits for members?
We currently have two membership tiers, Associate, which is free, and Full, which is currently €10 per year. Full members have voting rights at our general meetings, such as our AGM, so they can actively influence the direction we take and the focus of the work we do.  All members benefit from the activities we engage in and have the option of getting involved in our work.  They also have access to all the events we run. Normally we have a number of meets each year, but 2020 was a challenging year on this front, so we are currently running a bi-monthly series of webinars until normal service can resume. For 2021 we are developing additional benefits for paid members, such as discounts from a range of like-minded companies and access to our Slack community, which was previously reserved for committee members only.  We also plan to develop a corporate membership offering.

3) What is the role of the Irish EV Owners Association as Ireland transitions to electric mobility?

We have a big role to play. Our growing membership gives us a vast resource to tap into when considering the needs of current and future EV owners, based crucially on real world experiences. At our most recent AGM in June we set out our objectives for the coming year including expanding our lobbying efforts across government, councils and key stakeholders, continuing our engagement with charging infrastructure stakeholders including ESB ecars, ESB Networks, Smart Dublin and councils, establishing events to aid public education, awareness and engagement with EVs, and increasing the content on all our platforms and engaging with the media to drive public interest. In the past 6 months alone, some of our efforts have included continuing our engagement with ESB ecars and ESB Networks around public charging infrastructure and other technologies pertinent to the EV ecosystem; engaged with the DCCAE and Minister Eamon Ryan about our objectives and requested regular meetings; lobbied councils to utilise the on street charging grant and encouraged our members to do the same and commenced work on a refresh of our website and branding to enable better public engagement. We are very active and motivated to drive EV adoption in Ireland as we aim to reduce pollution and emissions in order to meet our climate action obligations as a nation.

4) What do you think is the biggest challenge to wide scale EV adoption in Ireland? 

Most people would say we need cheaper vehicles with greater range or that the public charging infrastructure needs to be better. But my experience, both with IEVOA and in dealing with customers considering buying used EVs tells me that education is actually the biggest challenge. I talk to a lot of people about EVs and the lack of knowledge and myths that surround them is still a huge barrier to wider adoption. IEVOA is pushing hard in this space but we are a voluntary organisation with little financial means. Much more needs to be done. if we look at the UK there is the experience centre in Milton Keynes and there is the Fully Charged Live show each year. These are places where potential EV owners can learn more without being in a sales environment. These sorts of things need to be replicated in Ireland and should be something supported by the likes of government, local councils, and the manufacturers. Further, more needs to be done to combat the huge amount of disinformation being deliberately spread by some manufacturers and dealers who are set to lose out in the shift to the electrification of transport. The press and advertising standards organisations have a huge role and responsibility to play in this, in fact checking what is published.

5) What prompted your interest in electric vehicles?
From a young age I had three main interests: cars, technology and the natural world. Electric vehicles are a great combination of the first two and also help me see a way towards protecting the latter for future generations. As a teenager I raced karts competitively in the UK and later forged a career as a software developer on leaving University, which led to a successful 20+ year career in IT. So whilst I took a keen interest in the trajectory of electric vehicle technology and how it could potentially help make our planet a better place from the early 2010s, it wasn’t until around 2017 when I bought my first EV and decided to make a career change and start my own business that it became an all consuming part of my daily life.

The Irish EV Owners Association has a number of benefits for EV owners in Ireland
The Irish EV Owners Association has a number of benefits for EV owners in Ireland

6) How did you become involved in the Irish EV Owners Association?
Prior to starting my business in 2017 I had joined the association as a member and had mainly just followed what was going on with the Facebook group so I decided to attend the next AGM in early 2018 to learn more about what they were doing.  I was impressed with the enthusiasm of the committee and the members in general. They were looking for volunteers to help out so I decided to get involved. The following year the previous Chair, Frank Barr, decided to step down and the rest of the committee convinced me to run as Chair at the AGM and it’s gone on from there really. I’m now in my second term as Chair and hope to continue a good while longer. We are in a very important moment for EV adoption in Ireland and there is still so much work to do.

7) Which electric vehicle past or present do you think has been the most influential on a) the motor industry and b) consumers? 
In terms of the motor industry I’d have to say Tesla who have been a hugely influential disruptor in terms of how the motor industry will be shaped moving forwards. The original 2010 Tesla Roadster broke the mould of what people imagined an electric car could be and they have gone from strength to strength from there. The mass market Model 3 which became available here in Ireland in 2019 is now a common sight on our roads and the upcoming SUV style Model Y is sure to be an even bigger success here. They also have their proprietary Supercharger network, which makes travelling long distances in any of their cars a breeze with plenty of chargers at every hub. Tesla have also proven that if you have the right product you don’t need a national network of dealerships to sell and maintain cars and that it can mostly be done online.  This, combined with the fact that their cars are hugely reliable, require little servicing and can be software upgraded to improve functionality over the air, means that they are changing the game.

The new Tesla Model 3 is available to order now!
Tesla has had a huge influence on the motor industry

From a consumer perspective I would have to say the Nissan Leaf, which was the first true mass market EV. In September 2020 Nissan announced that they had just manufactured the 500,000th Leaf since 2010. This has propelled Leaf drivers to over 14.8 billion clean-air kilometres, which equates to 2.4 billion kilograms of saved CO2 emissions. If you drive a first generation Leaf today it is still a very capable car, and the latest incarnation with its 40 or 62 kWh battery capacity and a host of autonomous driving features is a very accomplished car suitable to almost any need.

8) How can public charging be shared fairly among EV drivers who require this service regularly? 
As with any publicly available service there is certain etiquette to be followed in using charging infrastructure. There is plenty of information about this etiquette on the IEVOA website but it largely boils down to common sense, courtesy, and knowing the charging capabilities of your car and the charge units you plan to use. In summary, rapid chargers are for a quick top up in order that you can complete your journey or the next leg of your journey. Ideally you shouldn’t leave your car unattended at these chargers and you certainly shouldn’t leave your car connected and charging for more than 45 minutes, in fact there are penalties on most rapid chargers if you do. Also, don’t block the charger if you’ve finished charging or don’t need to charge, move away and park somewhere else.

Check out the IEVOA website for more information on owning an electric vehicle in Ireland
Check out the IEVOA website for more information on owning an electric vehicle in Ireland

For slow chargers the etiquette is a little different. It’s fine to leave your car charging away for as long as you need to, most cars will take over 4 hours to fully charge on this type of charger anyway. But again, if you have finished charging then try to move away, the exception being at places like train or bus stations where you can reasonably leave your car hooked up for the day if you need a full charge. Plus, never use any charging bay as a parking space, only park in a charging bay if you are actually charging. You wouldn’t park at a petrol pump after all, would you?

In the longer term, charger availability will be much less of an issue because there will be plenty of infrastructure for everyone. For example, ESB ecars are two years into a five year program that will see a huge expansion of their network including the addition of 50 high power charging hubs on key transport routes from early 2021. Plus anyone who drives an electric car will tell you that the best place to charge is either at home or work, whenever they can anyway. It’s always better (and generally cheaper) to be putting power into your car when you are doing something else, like sleeping. That way the public infrastructure is left available for those who really need to use it.

Simon Acton speaking at the 2020 Electric Vehicle Summit
Simon speaking at the 2020 Electric Vehicle Summit

9) Where would you like to see Ireland in 5 years time in relation to electric vehicles versus volumes of combustion engined cars?
By 2025 I’d like to see that at least 30% of annual new car sales in Ireland are fully electric cars. This might seem very ambitious from where we are today but if you look at the trajectory of sales increases in EVs, and at what the vast majority of car manufacturers are focusing their research and development on, it’s only going one way. We’ve seen a great number of new EV models released in 2020 and we will see more and more as each year passes with model types and range to suit every need; indeed some manufacturers have already signalled timelines for switching to selling EVs only. Ultimately consumers can only buy what manufacturers are offering. Legislation, incentives (and disincentives) and public opinion will drive adoption strongly too. Opinions are changing and awareness is growing: by 2025 choosing to buy a new combustion car will likely be viewed in a similar light to smoking in front of your kids or drink driving; it will become socially unacceptable. This is a huge moment for the motor industry and any manufacturer not fully on board with electrification by now is already unlikely to survive in the longer term.

The Irish EV Owners Association holds events throughout the year for members
The Irish EV Owners Association holds events throughout the year for members

10) How can our readers keep up to date with the club?

Our website is a great source of reference for information about everything EV, especially for anyone thinking of making the switch to an EV for the first time. We also have a lively community page on Facebook with almost 5000 members and also a presence on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Thank you to Simon for taking part in this interview for Changing Lanes.