Updated Incentives to Help Connecticut Make the EV Transition
In the United States, transportation accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector of the economy, including power generation. Electrification of transportation is a critical component of “decarbonizing” the U.S. economy and preventing catastrophic climate change. If you are a driver, an electric vehicle (EV) is one of the most effective steps that an individual can take to reduce their “carbon footprint” and to minimize nitrogen oxide (NOx) and other pollutants in Connecticut’s air.
Electric vehicles include battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), which run purely on battery power and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) that can run purely on battery power for a limited distance but shift to gasoline power to extend range.
As recent headlines have shown, great momentum has been made towards adopting electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States. Congress has approved funding for installing EV fast-charging stations (commonly called DC fast chargers or Level-3 chargers) on highways throughout the United States and for expanding financial incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles. Recent federal legislation has also provided incentives that support manufacturing of EVs and EV batteries (the most expensive component in EV manufacturing) in the U.S. in order to speed production and lower costs. At the state level, Connecticut has further expanded the list of eligible EV models in the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Rebate Program (CHEAPR), and beginning this year (2022), Connecticut electric utilities offer homeowners and renters rebates for the purchase and installation of EV charging equipment.
Dealing with “Range Anxiety”
A psychological barrier to making the EV transition is “range anxiety” or the fear of running out of battery charge during long-distance drives. The U.S. Congress addressed this issue in November 2021 when it passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which provides funding for installing EV fast-charging stations across the country through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program. The goal of the NEVI program is to install universal fast chargers that service all types of EVs at approximately every 50 miles along highways designated as “Alternative Fuels Corridor” routes. In the state of Connecticut, the Department of Transportation is planning to locate these charging stations along all interstate highways as well as on Route 7 in Western Connecticut. The first pair of these fast chargers was recently installed on I-95 southbound at the Madison service plaza. These are in addition to the over 220 already installed Level-3 chargers in Connecticut.
Getting Used to Driving EVs
We are used to refueling traditional gas-powered automobiles by filling up the tank at a gas station only when needed. In contrast, EVs can be conveniently “refueled” on a daily basis using home EV-charging equipment. Imagine waking up every morning to a full “tank” of electrons! Most new models of EVs have a range (travel distance on a complete charge) of at least 250 miles and can be “refueled” at home using a 240-volt Level-2 EV charger. Most PHEVs can be fully charged overnight with a simple Level-1 (115-volt) EV charger.
Cost of EV Ownership
Another barrier to EV adoption is purchase price. Currently average prices of new electric vehicles are higher than those of internal-combustion engine (ICE) cars; however, the average price of EVs is skewed upwards by the many high-end or luxury electric cars and trucks. In reality, there are several very reasonably priced, high-quality EVs on the market, including the Chevrolet Bolt and the Nissan Leaf, both with base prices under $28,000.
Significant additional savings come from federal tax credits and state of Connecticut rebates. Through the recently approved (August 2022) Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), federal tax credits have been expanded with some new domestic manufacturing requirements. In Connecticut, through the CHEAPR program, residents can receive rebates applied to the purchase or lease of EVs that cost up to $50,000. In addition, the state electric utilities Eversource and United Illuminating offer rebates for up to $1000 for purchase and installation of Level-2 EV charging equipment in the home.
EV drivers don’t pay for gas, only electricity (which is much less expensive per mile driven). In the U.S. median “fuel” costs for EVs are three to six times less than those for gasoline-powered cars. The cost of electricity is equivalent to $1.00 per gallon of gas. In addition, electric motors require very little maintenance and are much more reliable than conventional gas-or diesel-powered engines ($4,600 savings in maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle according to a recent analysis by Consumer Reports).
California Sets the Standards for EV Adoption that Other States Follow
As recent headlines have indicated, almost all of the major car manufacturers have announced plans to totally phase out combustion vehicles in favor of EVs, some as early as 2030. California has just announced (August 2022) a complete ban of sales of new internal combustion vehicles by 2035. This plan is significant because many states, including Connecticut, adopt the same transportation standards as California.
These aggressive state plans to promote EV adoption match the similarly progressive plans of manufacturers to increase EV production. Drivers can look forward to many new EV models at a lower cost as governments and manufacturers step on the accelerator to boost the EV transition.
Beva Nall-Langdon is a member of the Sierra Club and has been a co-organizer of EV Showcases through National Drive Electric Week in Connecticut for the last five years.