Gas prices lead some drivers to go electric
Connecticut car dealers say rapidly rising gas prices are leading to big interest in electric vehicles.
"We're getting a lot of calls now," said Steve Karl, the general manager at Karl Chevrolet in New Canaan. "Every time somebody goes to the pump and fills up, it's becoming more and more of an issue."
The number of EVs is still limited but growing. Chevrolet's newest model is the Bolt, which averages 250 miles per charge.
Electric cars are also more expensive, but prices are dropping and help is available. Connecticut's CHEAPR program offers up to $9,500 in rebates -- but only on cars costing less than $42,000. That money comes right off the sticker price.
The federal government offers an additional rebate, -- up to $7,500. But you have to claim it as a tax credit, and some established models like Tesla no longer qualify.
You can also get $500 to install a home charger and up to $250,000 to put in a high-speed super-charger.
At Karl Chevrolet, if you buy a Bolt, General Motors will actually give you a home charger -- and even install it for free.
Steve Karl said it's all about getting convincing people that EVs are a viable alternative to gas guzzlers.
"As of right now, there's a gas station on every corner. But there's not necessarily that charging station," he said.
Connecticut has about 21,000 electric cars – far short of the 500,000 the state is aiming for by 2030.
To jump-start sales, state lawmakers are considering even bigger incentives. The Connecticut Clean Air Act would expand rebates to electric bikes and cars priced up to $50,000. Residents of "environmental justice communities" would qualify for more money back and landlords would also have to install charging stations at a tenant's request beginning in October.
"We know that's one of the No. 1 things that consumers cite as the reason they don't go forward with an EV purchase, is the concern about 'range anxiety' and where it will charge," said Katie Dykes, the Department of Energy and Environment Protection commissioner.
Republicans are concerned about the long-term cost of expanded rebates, but auto dealers predict they won't be needed after a few years.
"Once they're in the market for a while, there will be reasonable and good alternatives on the used market," said Chip Gengras with the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association. “That’s where you’re going to see the real conversion from mild adoption to mass adoption.”
Gengras' group has opposed legislation to let electric carmakers like Tesla sell directly to consumers. Environmentalists say it would increase the number of EVs on the road, but dealers say it's unfair to circumvent the state's existing franchise laws and could hurt customers.
If you're looking for immediate relief from high gas prices, you might be out of luck. At Karl Chevrolet, the wait list is two months due to supply chain shortages. At some other dealers, it's this summer.