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

Q&A with Jenny Carter: A User's Guide to Buying Electric Vehicles
A charging station for electric vehicles was installed in the parking lot of a shopping center in Brattleboro. File photo by Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger

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

Transportation is responsible for more emissions than any other industry in the state, and Vermont set a goal to dramatically increase the number of EVs on the road so it could meet the requirements of the 2020 Global Warming Solutions Act.

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

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

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

While most elements of the guide are relevant to all Vermonters, including the state and federal incentives, Vermonters should check with their electric companies for utility-specific incentives.

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

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

Jenny Carter: I’m always going to encourage anyone who has the opportunity to walk, bike, car-share, or take public transportation. That is almost always the best option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At this point, it’s just not realistic to think that anyone can take advantage of any of those options.

Realistically, for so many Vermonters – especially those who live outside of Burlington or Rutland or any other downtown area – there is no way they would need a vehicle. Cars are a fact of life – if you live in the countryside you should probably have a vehicle – so let’s take a look at how the people who have to drive can reduce their emissions.

VTD: A federal tax credit, which can be as much as $7,500, is available to people who buy electric vehicles. Who is eligible?

Jenny Carter: The federal incentives are so-called non-refundable tax credits. It only applies to individuals who are taxable enough to take advantage of it – with one exception. Some car dealers, if you lease from them, will actually pass that credit on to you through a discounted lease.

VTD: It sounds like the federal tax credit will be more available to wealthy Vermonters than to lower- or middle-income people. Could that incentive still help create a more robust used electric vehicle market in the state?

Jenny Carter: Absolutely. I am by no means saying that they should abolish the federal tax incentive. My big point about the federal tax incentive is that it should be available to everyone, no matter how much money you make. That said, the fact that that tax incentive has been there has not only created a used car market, but has also given manufacturers the jumpstart they need to develop new lines, conduct further research and give consumers more choice. offer. I think the federal stimulus has played a very important role.

VTD: Who is Eligible for Government Incentives?

Jenny Carter: One of the things that people really need to look at when you talk about the incentives is whether there are income determinants and whether there is a cap on the cost of the vehicle. The federal program has no limit, but the Vermont program does. (More information about incentives is available in the user manual.)

What I really love about Vermont is that they realized, ‘We have a finite amount of money that we can spend, so instead of giving it to the people who need it least, like the federal government does,’ going to give it to the people who need it most.’ ]

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

Jenny Carter: What we’re running into now is that because of the pandemic, all these supply chain issues have arisen. People will have to be patient and persistent, and maybe a little flexible, with whatever vehicle they want. If you want an electric vehicle right now, you can certainly find them, but if there is a specific one that you are passionate about, you may have to wait a few weeks to a few months for an order to be fulfilled.

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

Jenny Carter: Now, just looking at the price of gas – even if climate change isn’t your driver, electric vehicles are now clearly a 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 on their program, charging an EV is about the equivalent of $1.50 a gallon if you use current average electricity rates in the state.

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

VTD: Will electric vehicle technology likely change enough in the coming years that Vermonters looking to buy an EV will have to wait?

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

VTD: Is Vermont’s electrical grid ready for all these electric vehicles?

Jenny Carter: The network issues are complex. In the near future, where an entire neighborhood has EVs, they may need a new transformer. But when we talk about the net as a whole, there is a lot of unused capacity. System overload in times of peak demand is the most problematic. Implementing time-of-use rates, which encourage charging at the best times, can allow for a large influx of EVs without overwhelming the network.

VTD: Is our electricity clean enough to make this big switch worthwhile?

Jenny Carter: Studies have shown, even if you use dirty fuel sources, because electric vehicles are still more efficient at using the fuel than gasoline vehicles, for the most part – not an absolute rule – electric vehicles are still more efficient. But it’s clear that the best of all worlds is that electric vehicle batteries are powered by renewable resources.

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