Environment
6:02 am
Tue July 8, 2014

A Fill Up For Five Bucks, But Only If You Drive An Electric Vehicle

State officials Monday celebrated the arrival of the Vermont’s newest electric vehicle charging station. But while the infrastructure needed to power these cars is expanding, not many Vermonters are using the new technology yet.

The number of electric vehicles registered in Vermont has more than doubled over the past year. But there’s still only about 700 of them on the road now. And Mary Powell, the CEO of Green Mountain Power, says it’ll probably take a while for the technology to catch on.  

"It's almost a chicken-egg kind of thing. Unless you have the charging stations you're not going to have the electric cars. People will buy them, if, especially in a rural state like ours, if there's a place they can charge them up." - Sen. Patrick Leahy

“I do believe for passenger, just regular Vermonters driving around town, I think you’re going to see tremendous EV adoption,” Powell said at a ribbon cutting for the new station. “But it is probably going to take about 10 to 15 years.”

The Shumlin Administration three years ago adopted a comprehensive energy plan that calls for the state to get 90 percent of its energy supply from renewable sources by 2050. Vermont’s ability to achieve that goal hinges in large part on the pace at which drivers here decide to go electric. To meet the goal, according to an analysis by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, Vermont will need a half-million of the vehicles on the road.

“So when you’re looking at energy use in Vermont, about 34 percent of the state’s energy use is transportation related, and that’s the single largest sector,” says Dave Roberts, a transportation consultant at the VEIC. 

Roberts says the state’s carbon emission reduction goals are also tied largely to the transformation of an automobile fleet that now accounts for 46 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont.

The charging station installed in the parking lot of the Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex is the 33rd in Vermont. And it includes the first so-called Level Three unit, which means drivers can get a full charge up in about 30 minutes – less than half the time it takes at stations that use an earlier generation of charging technology.

“It is the only way it works – it’s almost a chicken-egg kind of thing. Unless you have the charging stations you’re not going to have the electric cars,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy. “People will buy them, if, especially in a rural state like ours, if there’s a place they can charge them up.”

Leahy has touted federal tax credits for new electric car purchases. He says the credits will help drive consumer demand, despite higher price tags on electric vehicles.

Vermont’s state-based incentives are far more meager. But Gov. Peter Shumlin said that while electric vehicles cost more than conventional gasoline powered cars, early adopters will begin to reap the financial benefits immediately.

“And it’s important to note that it costs the equivalent of $1 a gallon to drive an EV. One dollar a gallon,” Shumlin said. “That’s important for your pocketbook. It’s important for the planet.”

The charging station installed in Middlesex is part of a “Green Energy Corridor” that will, once completed, have enough charging stations for motorists to travel from Boston to Montreal on electric-only vehicles.

Green Mountain Power paid about $27,000 for the two charging units at Red Hen. Customers will pay a $5 dollar fee to the owners of the Red Hen facility to charge up.