New push to invest in Vermont's electric car goals

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) There's a new push to get Vermont drivers to go electric. That's because we found out the state is nowhere near on pace to meet its goal.

The state's Comprehensive Energy Plan wants 50,000-60,000 Vermonters to be driving electric cars by 2025. As of January, only about 3,000 were. That's only 6 percent of the goal.

Our Cat Viglienzoni found out what needs to be done to change that.

The 50-page report from the Public Utility Commission sets a number of goals. But no one is sure how much it will cost to reach those goals.

Electric car drivers are quick to point out the savings on fuel.

"Driving from West Topsham down to Montpelier-- you need to save gas. I had a Tahoe and it was sucking up the gas and I need to save money," said Tom Vivian of West Topsham.

But the promise of paying less for gasoline has still not been enough to get Vermont to make the switch. If you look around, you will see mostly gasoline-powered cars. When I asked drivers what the hang-up was, it came down to mostly one thing: the money.

"The price has to be there. It has to make sense financially," said Ryan Maloney of Montpelier.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: What would make you make the switch?
Dwight Noyes/Northfield Falls: Affordability. Being able to get it charged when I need to.

That was the other hang-up. Drivers WCAX News spoke with said there's no point in having an electric car if you have to drive and wait somewhere just to charge it up.

Cat Viglienzoni: So what does the state need to do make someone like you make the leap?
Barbara Merrill/Jericho: The state needs to set up more charging stations around the state. And especially in rural areas.

"Every one of those barriers is capable of being overcome right now," said Anthony Roisman, the chair of the Vermont Public Utility Commission.

Roisman says this week's report aims to tackle the barriers for drivers to go electric. Among the recommendations were that the state give drivers financial incentives to go electric and add more charging stations.

"Those spread of those charging stations will overcome what's known as range anxiety," Roisman said.

The recommendations also are for the state's utilities to also offer financial incentives and increase access to in-home charging and public charging infrastructure. But with all these investments, we wanted to know how much would it cost. The PUC says they didn't calculate a number but it won't be cheap.

"It's a large number, but it's a return on investment," Roisman said.

Still, he says we need to find the money because with about half of the state's carbon coming from emissions...

"We need to move very quickly and we need to treat it like the serious item that it is," Roisman said.

One other group that needs to get involved: car dealerships. The Public Utility Commission says dealers need to feature them prominently to customers.

Also helping down the line, more car manufacturers are putting out different styles of electric cars which will appeal to a broader range of drivers.