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Will rising gas prices drive more people to electric vehicles?

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 4:46 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2022 at 6:59 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Many drivers have been feeling pain at the pump for the last few days, with prices rising rapidly due to the war in Ukraine.

Any time gas prices increase, so do conversations about alternatives like public transit and electric vehicles.

Cars plugging in at charging stations can get a full charge for $10-$15. Compare that to a full tank of gas which is now running $60, $70 and above.

One car dealership I spoke with said they expect that will have more people thinking about the switch to electric vehicles.

Gas prices are climbing higher by the day.

“Ridiculous, really ridiculous,” said Michael Barclay of Northfield.

With prices on Route 2 in Montpelier ranging from $4.09 a gallon to $4.39 a gallon Tuesday, Preston’s Kia dealership says they’re already starting to see a change in what customers are looking for.

“I would say 50% of our traffic now is people inquiring on EVs or hybrids,” said Joshua Blouin, a senior sales representative at Preston’s Kia.

The dealership sells five different EV and hybrid models, which right now account for no more than 5% of their sales.

“Now with gas prices really becoming a costly expense, I see that in the next year or so probably becoming 20% of our sales,” Blouin said.

In Vermont, there are 43 different electric and hybrid models on the market.

“SUVs, Jeeps, you have compact cars, you have four-wheel drive cars and you have sedans, as most folks know. We’ll have pickup trucks like the Ford Lightning coming into Vermont real soon,” said Peter Sterling of Renewable Energy Vermont.

Forty dealers across the state participate in state-issued rebate incentives available for electric and plug-in hybrids.

Electric vehicle sales went up 17% in Vermont last year alone, according to Sterling, and he thinks it will only go up more.

“The price of an electric vehicle certainly looks more and more appealing when gasoline is above $3 a gallon,” Sterling said.

With gas prices where they are now, Sterling says electric vehicles cost about one-third as much to operate. But the higher upfront cost for an EV still leaves some Vermonters feeling stuck between pump prices and an EV purchase.

“I’m praying that maybe prices will come down and then I can afford to buy it and I don’t have to worry about gas prices going up, up, up,” said Samuel Tackie of Barre.

Sterling says having more used EVs on the market in a few years will hopefully close the gap for those interested.

“Once we see used EVs coming out, that’s when I think we’ll see widespread adoption because not every Vermonter can afford a new car,” he said.

In his weekly news conference Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott echoed President Biden in saying that higher prices at the pump are the price we have to pay for freedom and democracy. He also said these gas prices emphasize the need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and electrifying vehicles is something we should accelerate as quickly as possible.

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