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    Saturday, November 26, 2022

    In Connecticut, inevitable shift to EVs showing signs of accelerating

    April Mealha, vice president of CT Electric Car, talks about the company, which installs electric car charging stations on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, while at KIA of Old Saybrook. CT Electric Car installed a charging station at the car dealership. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    An electric car charging station at KIA of Old Saybrook that is similar to what would be installed at a home. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Steven Cofone, left, service manager at KIA of Old Saybrook, and April Mealha, vice president of CT Electric Car, shown with the electric car charging station at the car dealership in the background. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    On July 1, 2011, barely a hundred electric vehicles were registered in Connecticut.

    Eleven years later, there were 25,444, more than twice as many as at the end of 2019. The latest number includes 5,441 vehicles added to the rolls from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2022.

    “We have customers every day asking about them,” said Steve Cofone, the service manager at Kia of Old Saybrook, a dealership on Middlesex Turnpike in Old Saybrook. “We’re just not getting many cars in now due to supply-chain issues.”

    Cofone said the dealership has sold 18 “EVs” so far this year while taking delivery on only two or three a month from Kia, the South Korea-based manufacturer.

    “Demand is very high,” he said, with customers placing orders as much as six months in advance.

    Connecticut, as part of an agreement with seven other states ― California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont ― committed nearly a decade ago to putting 125,000 to 150,000 EVs on the road by 2025. From the start, concern about air quality was behind efforts to promote the shift from gasoline-powered vehicles to EVs.

    The transportation sector continues to account for more than a third of Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions and two-thirds of its emissions of nitrogen oxides and other pollutants, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, or DEEP.

    The state aims to drive air pollution levels below where they were in 2001 by 45% by 2030 and by 80% by 2050.

    “You’re not going to achieve that without widespread use of EVs,” said Paul Farrell, director of the Planning and Standards Division of DEEP’s Bureau of Air Management.

    For drivers contemplating taking the plunge, EV sticker prices can be off-putting, with electric cars priced well beyond their gas-powered counterparts. Cofone said an electric version of a gas-powered sedan selling for between $30,000 and $35,000 can be expected to sell in the $50,000-to-$60,000 range.

    Over the long run, though, EVs even things up by being less costly to operate and less costly to maintain.

    “They’re the gift that keeps on giving ― improving air quality, public health, asthma rates ― but that’s not what people are thinking about when they purchase a vehicle,” Farrell said. “They’re thinking, ‘What’s it going to cost? How much is it going to save me?’ We need to communicate the benefits better.”

    Farrell said the cost of operating an EV is the equivalent of paying about $2 per gallon of gas to operate a gas-powered vehicle. With no oil to change and far fewer parts, an EV’s service and maintenance costs are far less than those of a gas-powered vehicle, he said.

    State, federal and even local governments have sought to promote sales of EVs by offering financial incentives, not the least of which is a 2022 federal income tax credit of up to $7,500 for some all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars. The amount of the credit varies based on the capacity of the car’s battery.

    In 2015, DEEP established the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate, or CHEAPR, program to incentivize state residents’ purchase or lease of EVs from Connecticut dealerships.

    As of July 1, the incentive for battery-powered vehicles, or BEVs, which derive all their power from energy stored in rechargeable battery packs, is available on certain vehicles selling for up to $50,000. The standard rebate on the purchase of such vehicles is $2,250. Buyers who meet low- to moderate-income requirements can qualify for an additional $2,000 rebate.

    Purchases of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, which can be driven solely on electricity but also have gas-powered engines, can qualify for a standard rebate of $750 as well as an additional income-related incentive of $1,500.

    Fuel cell electric vehicles, or FCEVs, which are fueled by cells that convert hydrogen to electricity but emit no pollutants, are eligible for a standard rebate of $7,500 as well as an additional income-related incentive of $2,000.

    Incentives for the purchase of used EVs also are available.

    Eversource and United Illuminating, the state’s major electricity suppliers, have collaborated with DEEP’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to introduce a statewide EV charging station installation program. EV owners can qualify for a $500 rebate on the purchase of a Level 2 home charger for their vehicle and another $500 rebate on the cost of any related home wiring upgrades.

    EV owners can also earn up to $200 a year by choosing to use less energy during periods of peak electricity demand. During such periods, Eversource will ramp down or pause a participating customer’s EV charging. Typically, 10 to 15 peak periods occur between June and September.

    On the local level, Groton Utilities offers customers a $2,000 rebate on the purchase of a new EV and a $1,000 rebate on the lease of a new EV. Customers may also be eligible for a $600 rebate on the installation of a qualifying charging station. Norwich Public Utilities also offers rebates to customers on the purchase or lease of a new or used EV and on the purchase and installation of qualified EV charging stations.

    Amid all the incentivizing of EV ownership, CT Electric Car, a subsidiary of the Newington Electric Co., has been doing a brisk business installing charging stations throughout the state at homes, businesses, municipal offices, condominium complexes, gas stations and restaurants, according to April Mealha, a company vice president.

    CT Electric put in a charger at Kia of Old Saybrook about a year ago and has been installing them in a number of southeastern Connecticut locations, Mealha said.

    The rebates Eversource and United Illuminating are offering can cut the cost of home installation in half. Most EV owners opt for Level 2 “smart chargers” that require 240-volt outlets as opposed to the Level 1 chargers that come with most EVs and can plug into a common 120-volt wall outlet. Direct current fast charging, or DCFC, systems, are typically installed at highway charging stations.

    According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Level 1 chargers can take 40 to 50 hours to charge a BEV from empty and five to six hours to charge a PHEV from empty. Level 2 chargers can charge a BEV from empty in four to 10 hours and a PHEV from empty in one to two hours. DCFC equipment can charge a BEV to 80% of capacity in just 20 minutes to an hour. Most PHEVs do not work with fast chargers.

    Kia of Old Saybrook is equipped with a DCFC system as well as the Level 2 charger installed by CT Electric Car. Members of the public can access the chargers by tapping their credit card. The site is one of the fewer than 500 public charging stations in Connecticut providing more than 1,200 “ports,” or outlets, for fueling EVs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.

    The state Department of Transportation’s plan to greatly expand its network of charging stations is among the 35 plans President Joe Biden’s administration has approved for $900 million in an initial round of funding. Connecticut expects to receive $52.5 million over the next five years to expand its charging network over 350 miles of roadway designated EV Alternative Fuel Corridors.

    The designation applies to Interstates 95, 91, 84 and 395 as well a portion of U.S. Route 7 in western Connecticut.

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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