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Auto show, electric vehicle rebates rev up at Mohegan Sun

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Montville — Vince Chrzanowski has owned four Jaguars over the last three decades, including a 1959 Mark IX, a luxury saloon car he says "had more leather and wood than a typical British men's club."

"It was a beautiful, great old car. It looked like an old Bentley," said Chrzanowski, a retired teacher sporting a Jag hat. His wife, Lois, also is a retired teacher and car aficionado. The Baltic couple eagerly joined morning rush hour Friday at Mohegan Sun's Earth Expo and Convention Center for the jumpstart of the Connecticut International Auto Show.

The Friday through Sunday event, long held in Hartford, is showcasing more than 100 of the latest models from 30 manufacturers, including glimmering new trucks and SUVs, sleek and colorful supercars, electric vehicles (such as the 2019 I-Pace, Jaguar's first all-electric car), the Rolls-Royce Dawn (dubbed "the sexiest Rolls-Royce ever built"), and the McLaren 570S Spider, considered the most attainable supercar at a mere $211,000.

The auto show will feature a Toyota Ride and Drive event, a Supercar Showcase, a Classic Volkswagen Showcase and Ronnie "the Limo Driver" Mund from The Howard Stern Show will make an appearance Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

William Eggers, a woodworking contractor for 50 years in Manhattan, and Ernie Barker, a former college teacher, wore dapper suits and hats as they welcomed guests near Eggers' reproduction of an 1898 Daimler truck which they called "the first conventional platform truck."

Eggers said after research — including through photographs and measurements kept by the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany — he's reproduced a host of historic firsts and oddities, ranging from the first four-wheel car, first gas-powered and steam-powered motorcycles, Ben Hur chariots and Wells Fargo stagecoaches.

"Ernie does the computers and intelligent work," Eggers said. "I just use my (expletive) hammer."

At a news conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Rob Klee — who described himself as "a car guy" with fond memories of working alongside his father on a 1978 Toyota Land Cruiser — opened the show by announcing a turbo boost for the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate (CHEAPR).

Klee said DEEP and United Illuminating will add $2 million to the CHEAPR program, which offers incentives up to $5,000 for state residents who buy or lease a new battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric or fuel cell electric vehicle. More than 35 vehicles are eligible and state leaders, auto dealers and industry leaders say more electric cars — with longer mileage ranges — are coming to dealerships every year.

"Thirty-five percent of our greenhouse gas emissions come from our transportation sector, so these electric vehicles will make a difference for everyone here along with the folks that are driving them," Klee said.

Klee added in an interview that the CHEAPR program is not funded through taxpayer or ratepayer dollars but rather through merger settlement funds set aside to help the state meet clean energy goals. Initially CHEAPR was funded through the Eversource-NSTAR merger; now United Illuminating and Avangrid merger settlement funds will provide a boost to the program, he said.

The utilities, Klee said, "see the changing dynamic. It's these types of programs, in this stage of transition with new models and new things coming, that are important. They eventually won't be needed. The dealers are the experts. We have such an amazing group of dealers who've embraced it and said, 'Yeah, this is the future.' They have salespeople who are excited."

Combined with a federal rebate up to $7,500, the CHEAPR program makes electric vehicles more competitive with gas vehicles, Klee said. DEEP spokesman Chris Collibee added that the state has "so many public charging stations now," referencing Connecticut's 400-plus stations. "If you go into your town center and know you're getting a cup of coffee, you can plug in."

The auto show picks up again Saturday at 11 a.m.


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