Can Vermont reach its goals for electric cars?

Published: Jul. 26, 2018 at 6:34 PM EDT
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You've heard Vermont's calls to go green. And that includes what you drive.

In 2012, there were only about 100 electric vehicle registrations in Vermont. Fast forward to April 2018 where there are 2,400. But that's only half a percent of the cars that are on the road. The state says its goal is to get 10 percent of people into electric cars by 2025. But they've got a long road ahead.

"I don't have the fossil fuel guilt," Sheryl Graves said.

Graves has had her electric car for about two months now. She loves it but admits she was worried about taking a long drive.

"There was a little bit of anxiety beforehand. Charged it up fully, checked out where the fast charging stations were along the way. There's a great app to do that. And it just worked out great," Graves said.

David Roberts also drives an electric car. It makes sense given his job coordinating Vermont's Drive Electric Program.

"We're just starting out basically," Roberts said.

The promise of paying the equivalent of $1.50 a gallon isn't enough to entice many drivers. Electric cars remain more expensive up front and there isn't a lot of public charging infrastructure. Also, there has been a lack of options in the market.

"That's going to be changing in the next few years as more automakers bring online additional models that have all-wheel drive and a lot of those features that Vermont consumers, in particular, are looking for," Roberts said.

But the long-term switch to electric could put Vermont gas stations out of business.

"We have built out our convenience store and gasoline industries based on the model that we will be driving, vehicles with 15-gallon tanks that will need to be filled up every couple hundred miles," said Matt Cota of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.

With that disappearing, Cota says more gas stations may need to consider adding in electric charging to stay open because there will only be fewer cars pulling up to their pumps in the future.

So the big roadblock for the state right now is how do we pay for our roads when more cars are going electric?

Right now, we pay for them when we go to the gas station and we fill up at the pump. We pay a gas tax that goes into the transportation fund. But electric vehicles are kind of getting a free ride. So, the state has to figure out a way around that. One of the things they're considering is a registration fee for electric vehicles that drivers would have to pay. Another would be a tax on the miles electric vehicles drive. And then a third option might be a fee for kilowatt hours charged, much like the gasoline tax we have now. But the state has yet to figure out which of those options would work best.