Campaigners and members of the public reacted in disbelief as transport Minister Eamon Ryan announced another expansion of electric car incentives and a new office called Zero Emission Vehicles Ireland.
Incentives aimed at electric and cargo bicycles vary from country to country and city to city, but what’s on offer includes thousands of euro in grants, several thousands of euro in scrappage schemes or Government-backed interest-free loans.
The incentives in some locations are focused on lower-income households, especially the scrappage schemes, while some countries and cities offer extra grants for lower-income households. See our article covering an overview of incentives for cargo and electric bicycle around the world.
The Irish Government is, however, still offering up to up to €5,000 for electric cars and another €600 for a home chargers, but nothing for an electric bicycles or cargo bicycles, which campaigners and experts say can be car-replacements for some people and van-replacements for some businesses.
Business in Ireland can currently avail of €3,800 for electric vehicle grants for vans, but nothing for the purchase of a business-focused cargo bicycle or trailers. EU-funded research found that, on average, slightly over half of motorised trips in European cities involving goods could be switched to normal or cargo bicycles.
Last year, IrishCycle.com reported how electric and cargo bicycles were excluded from Minister Ryan’s €100m e-vehicle fund expansion.
Bicycles are legally vehicles, but Ryan — a former cycle campaigner — has not commented on why he won’t allow electric bicycles to be included in the scheme.
After a generic response from the Department of Transport, IrishCycle.com directed the following question to the Minister directly: “Can Minister Ryan please explain why he is expanding the electric vehicle grant now but there seems to be no urgency in allowing electric bicycle buyers to tap into that source of funding?”
That question went unanswered last year.
The Department of Transport has maintained that it is a budgetary issue that can only be dealt with as part of the Government’s budget process in October, but there would be no extra cost in expanding the electric vehicle grant fund to include bicycles.
After a further announcement on electric vehicle and charger grants on Thursday, the lack of grants for electric and cargo bikes was heavily criticised.
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The Dublin Cycling Campaign said: “E-Cargo bikes are more compact, mobile, and affordable than cars that destroy the environment. You can get a grant or a bank loan for a petrol/diesel-guzzling death machine but not for an e-cargo bike. We are in a #ClimateEmergency we need the government to recognise that with effective and IMMEDIATE action.”
For clarity: There were never grants for pure petrol/diesel and Minister Ryan has pulled the plug on grants for plug-in hybrids which have been heavily criticised by environmental experts.
The campaign added: “Give grants for sustainable transport methods, invest in active travel, stop the exploitation and use of fossil fuels, invest in renewable energy.”
Galway TD Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “Eamon Ryan, the most efficient zero emissions vehicle is the bike that you & I ride. I see virtually no supports emanating from your department to incentivise people to buy them. Why are we languishing at the bottom of this list? We should be leading.”
Deputy Cannon pointed to Scotland as an example where interest-free loans for cargo bicycles and electric bicycles are supported by the Government there. The loans are repayable over 4 years and can be for up to 2 e-bikes capped at £3,000 each, 1 family cargo bike capped at £6,000, or 1 adapted cycle with the value assessed on a case-by-case basis.
A large number of replies to Ministry Ryan’s, tweets regarding the new electric vehicle incentives and Zero Emission Vehicles Ireland focused on questioning why there’s no grants for bicycles.
The replies from members of the public, for example, included the following:
Ian Richardson said: “Based on the many comments to this and my own opinion, it is a communication blunder that this was announced with the focus on Electric cars/trucks etc. and no mention of supports for e-bikes and e-cargo bikes. Supports for e-bikes/e-cargo should have come first.”
Sinead Higgins said: “There are more evs than just cars! Where are incentives for 2 car families to get rid of car and replace with cargo bike/e-bike or for low income/students to avail of a purchase of a bike. Please ask SEAI to review their latest amarketing campaign for EVs – it’s shambolic!!”
Eoin Ryan said: “We could grant support 10 e-bikes instead of each e-car. Way better carbon savings, lifetime cost. Please mandate #ZEVI to spend half their budget on bike travel.”
A member of the public using the alias “Tim Pot” also tweeted: “This office should also be responsible for mobility aids for the 1-8km range. i.e. bicycles, cargo bicycles, e-bikes and scooters etc. Every trip using these is a trip not needed to be converted to expensive electric cars that cause almost as as many problems as they solve.”