Eddie Cunningham: ‘A little bit of history was made as I silently steamed along in an electric Ferrari last week’
It was impossible to ignore the feeling that a little bit of history was being made as I silently steamed down the ‘back straight’ in an electric Ferrari at Powerscourt last week.
The car, and the drive, brought together several strands of a story few could have imagined a couple of years back. This was a real, not imaginary, foretaste of things to come.
Yes, the Electrifi company is to invest €50m developing a range of high-performance electric cars over the next three years in Co Wicklow. That means they will become the first company to make cars in Ireland in almost 40 years.
Manufacturing has already started in the Electrifi’s sister plant based in Wales; with first cars to leave the Irish plant by the end of the year.
I spoke with the Electrifi founder, Cork-born Norman Crowley, who believes this could be the start of something big for the Irish economy.
From Clonakilty near Ballinascarthy, the home of Henry Ford, Mr Crowley’s father led the fundraising for the statute of the Model T that adorns the village.
It’s a nice little link with the man who revolutionised transport in his time.
Mr Crowley believes the potential for transformative change right now creates huge opportunities for “new and existing” players in the automotive sector.
“The global market opportunity in electric vehicles is predicted to top more than $500bn between now and 2025,” he adds.
On that basis, he believes a revived car manufacturing industry here could employ more than 30,000 with huge spin-offs for the economy.
Initially Electrifi will modify classics from Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin into electric cars with Formula 1 style performance.
They will be rebuilt and configured with latest technology and powered by Tesla batteries and motors.
We will see a new range of fully electrified classic cars early next year, it is hoped. But they are going to cost a lot. Prices will kick off at €750,000 for higher-end models.
Over time far more affordable cars – costing €30,000 – will come on stream.
Money does not seem to be an object for high-end buyers: Electrifi has already sold out its capacity for the next 18 months; cars are being shipped to the UK, Middle East and US.
From later this year, visitors to the company’s Powerscourt estate headquarters will be able to see the cars being hand built and tested.
They may be dream machines for many now but they carry real prospects.