DENIS SCANNELLThe first electric taxi is set to hit the streets of Cork today. And the driver behind the wheel of the near-silent e-taxi reckons he will save up to €7,200 a year on fuel costs.

Radek Pilat, who has been driving a petrol engine taxi on weekend shifts for the last seven years, said he was really excited about making the switch to an electric vehicle.

“I was spending up to €150 a week on petrol. But I can do up to 120km in my new car on about €1.50 of electricity,” he said. “I reckon I will save about €7,200 a year on fuel costs alone.”
Radek, who arrived in Ireland just over 12 years ago and who lives near Macroom, Co Cork, with his wife and two children, made the switch to an electric vehicle following the launch last October of the Drive4Zero initiative — an ambitious industry-government partnership to double the number of plug-in EVs on Irish roads within 12 months.

The project, which is being rolled out first in Cork, features a package of incentives including free parking in certain car parks, free charging, free charge points, waived toll charges, zero deposit, and 0% finance offers, to encourage drivers to make the switch.

It is being spearheaded by Marine Minister Simon Coveney and being rolled out by partners including Energy Cork, several car manufacturers, the ESB, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, and the SFI Research Centre for Marine Renewable Energy Ireland.

Radek said he explored the range of incentives and opted to go electric. “I also spoke to [Nissan] Leaf owners and they said they were very happy with the vehicle, and that it is a great car for city driving,” he said.

The car passed its final regulatory tests this week, clearing it to accept its first paying passengers this weekend.

Radek said he has been learning in recent weeks to manage the car’s battery life and its range. But he said there were so many charge points available across the city that “range anxiety” was not a problem.

“If I have to do a longer fare to some of the suburban towns like Carrigaline or Midleton, I might have to make time for a 20-minute charge afterwards, but that’s fine,” he said.

This news story was written by journalist Eoin English and appeared in the Irish Examiner on Saturday 7th Feb 2015