A consortium comprising Irish forecourt and convenience operator Topaz, internet specialist eircom and The Ecology Foundation has launched a pilot project to test the viability of electric vans in a working fleet environment.


The study will gauge the performance of the electric vans under a variety of criteria including electricity usage, cost, mileage and emissions while it will also include driver and forecourt surveys and the public’s response.


Irish Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, said the project would provide a wealth of practical information which would be most useful for transport planning in the years ahead.


He said: “The findings will particularly assist fleet managers who are considering the deployment of electric vehicles while it will also demonstrate how forecourt operators like Topaz can engage with electric vehicle drivers. On a practical infrastructural level it will provide extra charging points which will be used by the participating eircom drivers, other fleet drivers and of course the general public. Topaz, eircom and The Ecology Foundation are to be congratulated for embarking on this novel project and I wish them the very best."


The Minister said he hoped the year-long project, which is grant aided by his Department’s National Sustainable Travel Office, would play its part in helping to achieve the Government’s ambitious target of 10% Electric Vehicle usage in the Irish fleet by 2020.


Three eircom vans will be involved in the €800,000 project. eircom has procured the world’s first fast chargeable (CHAdeMO protocol compliant) production vans. Each van will be charged by a combination of home charging and Topaz rapid charging facilities.


The CEO of Topaz Eddie O’Brien said the company was delighted to be involved in the project and said the company was determined to play a leading role in building up the country’s EV charging infrastructure. “Right now a kilometer in an EV costs 3 cent while a kilometer in a diesel van costs 9 cent. That’s a compelling argument in its own right, especially given current prices, but then you have the other benefits such as much reduced emissions and lowering our dependence on imported fossil fuels. We are delighted to be working with eircom, The Department of Transport and The Ecology Foundation on this project and we believe the findings will be of interest not just to the transport industry but to the average motorist as well."


Geoff Shakespeare, Chief technology Officer, eircom said: ‘eircom is delighted to participate in this cutting edge project to promote sustainable energy technologies for our vehicles. eircom has the largest transport fleet in Ireland and it is important that large Irish companies such as eircom explore and promote sustainable technologies that can reduce the financial impact of fuel costs and promote a cleaner environment. ’


The idea for the project was conceived by The Ecology Foundation, which has been working with both Topaz and eircom on strategies to reduce their emissions. TEF will be responsible for gathering and analysing the relevant data and writing the reports charting the progress of the project.