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October 10, 2022

More charging stations, tax credits aim to help CT catch-up on lofty electric vehicle goals

HBJ PHOTO | SKYLER FRAZER Ed Ingalls is the owner of CT Electric Car Charging Systems, a Newington-based company that has found a growing niche installing electric vehicle charging stations in Connecticut.
HBJ PHOTO | SKYLER FRAZER An EV parking space.

With more than $50 million in federal money coming to Connecticut to build out electric vehicle infrastructure, state officials and those connected to the EV industry hope the Nutmeg State will continue to inch closer to its lofty clean energy transportation goals.

In September, the White House announced Connecticut’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program plan had been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The program was created to help fund states’ efforts to build out their electric vehicle charging station networks over the next several years.

The state Department of Transportation is set to receive $52.5 million in federal funding over five years to add public EV charging stations along Connecticut’s highways.

In late 2019, the state announced an ambitious plan to have 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. Near term, the state’s goal is to have between 125,000 and 150,000 EVs on the road by 2025.

So far, Connecticut isn’t close to either benchmark, with just over 25,000 electric vehicles currently registered in the state. However, the number of registered EVs has more than doubled since 2019, and officials hope the addition of more charging stations, particularly along state highways, could help reduce driver range anxiety and spur greater EV adoption.

Barry Kresch

“We need to increase the charging infrastructure, because I think we’re playing catch-up at this point,” said Barry Kresch, president of the EV Club of CT, an electric vehicle advocacy group.

Kresch said adding more public charging stations is “critical” as electric vehicles get more popular.

More stations, more cars

CT Electric Car Charging Systems, a subsidiary of Newington Electric Co., is celebrating its 10th anniversary later this month at its 72 Pane Road headquarters in Newington.

The company installed some of Connecticut’s first public electric vehicle charging stations, at West Hartford’s Blue Back Square in 2012, and since then it has installed hundreds more in the state, both commercial and residential.

The EV industry has shifted significantly in a decade. Ten years ago there were just a few auto brands that had electric vehicle or hybrid models; now nearly every car manufacturer is putting research and development into the sector, and some major car makers — like General Motors — have set ambitious goals to stop selling gas and diesel vehicles in the years ahead.

“This isn’t a flash in the pan anymore,” said Ed Ingalls, owner of Newington Electric Co. and CT Electric Car Charging Systems. “The electric car industry is not going away and it’s getting bigger every year.”

Ingalls said most electric vehicle buyers also install a charging system at their home, a big part of his business that likely has growth potential in the years ahead. But more public stations could help quell range anxiety, or the fear that a vehicle might fully lose charge before reaching its destination.

“They’re going to put these car-charging stations all over, people are gonna feel a little bit more comfortable and think, ‘Wow, there are car-charging stations everywhere. Maybe I will buy an electric car,’ ” Ingalls said.

According to the federal government’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, Connecticut currently has 1,318 EV charging stations spread across 487 public locations.

Phase one of Connecticut’s EV infrastructure investment plan, state officials said, focuses on adding up to 10 EV charging locations along the interstate system. Each location will consist of at least four individual public fast chargers with a minimum power level of 150 kilowatts per port.

According to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the state follows California’s greenhouse gas emission standards and goals for electric vehicle adoption. Connecticut signed onto the multistate Zero-Emission Vehicle Memorandum of Understanding in 2013 regarding EV goals, which includes having hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles on the road by 2025 and 2030.

“It was a stretch goal that took into account, at the time, the technology and regulatory framework that was in place and the credits that manufacturers would earn by creating EVs,” said Paul Farrell, DEEP’s acting chief of the Bureau of Air Management.

The state will continue to follow California’s EV standards as they evolve, including a goal of becoming fully electric.

Tracy Babbidge, DEEP’s acting deputy commissioner for the Environmental Quality branch, said Connecticut is also monitoring new federal goals, like President Joe Biden’s executive order that targets having 50% of the country’s vehicles be electric by 2030. Manufacturers are also increasingly setting their own goals for how many EVs they produce.

“It’s a much broader push that we’re now seeing nationally,” Babbidge said.

Higher interest

Jeff Aiosa, executive board member of the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, said electric vehicle interest is high. Aiosa is also owner and president of Carriage House Mercedes Benz of New London, so he sees the sales potential of EVs daily.

“Almost 23% of new car buyers who are in the market are considering buying an electric vehicle,” Aiosa said. “Round that up, and a quarter of every new buyer is having an interest in converting from combustion to electric — that’s great news.”

Ed Ingalls, owner of CT Electric Car Charging Systems, with a JuiceBox EV charger.

Still, he and his dealership colleagues continue to hear three common concerns about EVs: affordability; range anxiety; and the lack of charging infrastructure.

But Aiosa said range fears are being addressed by manufacturers as technology gets better and longer distances between charges become possible. Prices, he added, will hopefully become more affordable as the EV industry grows.

“The immediate thing that the state and federal government can do is address that lack of infrastructure,” Aiosa said. “There’s a gas station on every corner, but there isn’t a charging station on every corner.”

Aiosa said he sees vehicles of all makes and models using his dealership’s public charging stations, but more chargers along highly-traveled corridors would help.

Financial incentives

Financial incentives are another big driver of EV adoption. The Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate program offers residents up to $9,500 in money back when buying or leasing certain electric vehicles with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price up to $50,000; 8,521 rebates have been issued through the program since it began, according to state data.

The federal government also has a program that gives residents up to a $7,500 tax credit for the same purchase, depending on the vehicle, and other tax credits can be used for charger installations.

“We definitely see a change in behavior when there is incentive money, and the secret sauce is not just federal or not just state, but the two combined,” Aiosa said. “That really does move the needle because, again, there’s a considerable upcharge to get into this technology because we’re truly not to scale yet.”

DEEP’s Farrell said that, according to post-rebate surveys, “upwards of 90%” of EV buyers who use the incentives said they were an important factor in their purchase decision. Plug-in EV sales represented 7.6% of all car purchases in the state in the second quarter of this year, he noted.

The state’s rebate program used to be just for residential use, but now businesses can also use incentives for EV purchases or charging stations.

Ingalls, of CT Electric Car Charging Systems, said he’s seeing rebates come into play for property management companies that have apartment, condominium, office or parking complexes. They can also use rebates to install charging stations at their properties for the people living or working there.

“That’s who I think is going to be taking advantage of it big time,” Ingalls said. “As a property owner of a large complex, you’re not really going to want to shell out $40,000 for half-a-dozen chargers, … but if you can get that money back in a rebate, they’re probably not only going to do it, but it’ll help them sell or rent their properties.”

Regardless of the state’s lofty goals, electric vehicles are here to stay. Aiosa compared driving an electric vehicle to going from a flip phone to a smartphone.

“My opinion is that once you’re in the technology, you will never go back,” Aiosa said.

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