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Q&A with Jenny Carter: A User’s Guide to Buying Electric Vehicles

An electric vehicle charging station has been installed in a parking lot at the Brattleboro Mall. File photo by Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger

As Vermont races to transition drivers from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles, the landscape for buyers — and the path to finding the right state and federal incentives — can be complex.

Transportation is responsible for more emissions than any other sector in the state, and Vermont has set a goal to dramatically increase the number of electric vehicles on the road to meet the requirements of the 2020 Electric Vehicles Act. global warming solutions.

The state is also moving forward with a regulation that, if passed, would require manufacturers to phase out all new internal combustion vehicles in Vermont by 2035, though Vermonters can still buy cars. gasoline and diesel engines in Vermont via the used car market.

With a slew of new federal funding for electric vehicle infrastructure, announced incentives for buyers, and ongoing regulations, Jenny Carter, assistant professor at the Institute of Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law and Graduate School, said she answered questions from many Vermonters who want to know more about electric vehicles.

Carter and Molly Smith, program coordinator at Vermont Law and Graduate School and chair of the Hartford Energy Commission, recently co-authored a user-friendly guide that covers the basics of buying electric vehicles, with a focus on the Upper Valley.

Although most items in the guide are relevant to all Vermonters, including state and federal incentives, Vermonters should check with their electric utility for utility-specific incentives.

In a recent chat with VTDigger, Carter gave answers to general questions about electric vehicles in the state. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


VTDigger: Although lawmakers increased funding for public transportation in the last legislative session, it often feels like the conversation about Vermont’s emissions is centered on electric vehicles, as opposed to other transportation measures. climate-focused. Why are electric vehicles an important piece of the puzzle?

Jenny Carter: I will always encourage anyone who has the ability to walk, cycle, car share or take public transport. This will almost always be the best option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Right now, it’s just not realistic to think that everyone will be able to take advantage of any of these options.

Realistically, for so many Vermonters — especially those who live outside of Burlington or Rutland or another downtown area — there’s no way they’ll ever need a vehicle. . Cars are a fact of life – if you live in a rural area you probably need a vehicle – so let’s look at how people who have to drive can reduce their emissions.

VTD: A federal tax credit of up to $7,500 is available to people who purchase electric vehicles. Who is eligible?

Jenny Carter: The federal incentives are what are called non-refundable tax credits. It only applies to people who have enough tax to pay to take advantage of it, with one exception. Some car dealerships, if you lease from them, will in effect pass this credit on to you through a discounted lease.

VTD: It looks like the federal tax credit will be more available to wealthy Vermont than to those with low or middle incomes. Could this incentive still help create a more robust used electric vehicle market in the state?

Jenny Carter: Absolutely. I am in no way saying that they should get rid of the federal tax incentive. My point about the federal tax incentive is that it should be available to everyone, no matter how much money you earn. That said, the existence of this tax incentive has not only created a market for used cars, but has also given manufacturers the boost they need to develop new lines, do additional research and give consumers more choice. I think the federal incentive played a very important role.

VTD: Who is entitled to state incentives?

Jenny Carter: One of the things people really need to look at, if you’re talking about incentives, is if there are income eligibility factors and if there’s a cap on the cost of the vehicle. The federal program does not have a cap, but the Vermont program does. (More information on incentives is available in the user guide.)

What I think is really great about Vermont is that they realized that we have a limited amount of money that we can spend, so instead of giving it to the people who need it least, as the federal government does, we will give it to the people who need it most. ]

VTD: The Ford F-150 pickup truck, one of the most popular cars in the state, is now available in a new electric model, called the F-150 Lightning. We haven’t seen many on the road here yet – why?

Jenny Carter: The thing that we’re running into right now is that because of the pandemic, there’s been all these supply chain issues that have arisen. People are going to have to be patient and persistent, and maybe a little flexible, with the vehicle they want. If you want to get an electric vehicle right now, you can certainly find one, but if there’s one in particular that’s close to your heart, you might have to wait a few weeks or even months for one. order is fulfilled.

VTD: Starting in 2022, consumers will be able to choose from 40 different models of electric vehicles in the state. How do electric vehicles compare to traditional internal combustion cars?

Jenny Carter: Now, just looking at the price of gasoline – even if climate change isn’t your motivation, electric vehicles are now a clear financial winner for consumers, at least in the long run. For Green Mountain Power customers, if you agree to their terms, you can get your electricity for the equivalent of $1 per gallon. And if you’re not in their program, using today’s average electric rates in the state, charging an EV costs about the equivalent of $1.50 per gallon.

An electric vehicle charges on a fast charger in Rutland in February. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

VTD: Is electric vehicle technology likely to change enough in the coming years that Vermonters wanting to buy an electric vehicle will wait?

Jenny Carter: Most electric vehicles are now in the 250 mile range. There are quite a few that are in the 300 mile range. I mean, you can get to Boston on a single charge with most EVs. It won’t be enough for everyone, but with the level three charger, if there is a level three charging station, which is on the way to Boston, you can charge your vehicle in about half an hour .

VTD: Is the Vermont grid ready for all these electric vehicles?

Jenny Carter: The issues surrounding the network are complex. In the immediate future, where an entire neighborhood is equipped with electric vehicles, it may need a new transformer. But when talking about the network as a whole, there is a lot of unused capacity. System overload at times of peak demand causes the most problems. Introducing time-of-use tariffs, which encourage charging at the best times, can allow a large influx of electric vehicles without overloading the network.

VTD: Is our electricity clean enough to make this big change worth it?

Jenny Carter: Studies have shown that even if you’re using dirty fuel sources, because electric vehicles are still more efficient at using fuel than gasoline-powered vehicles, for the most part – not a hard and fast rule – electric vehicles are always more effective. But clearly, the best of both worlds is to have electric vehicle batteries powered by renewable sources.

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