The future of Vermont’s transportation system is electric. On the House Transportation Committee we spent some time working on Electric Vehicle (EV) policy last year and that conversation is even livelier this year. We’re considering the Governor’s $3 million proposal to continue investments in infrastructure and incentives to promote adoption of EVs. We’re considering which method the state should use to collect some EV road use fee so that we replace the gas tax and continue to have Transportation Funds to maintain the roads as EVs become a larger part of the more than 400,000 passenger vehicles registered in the state.
There are about 5,000 EVs on the road in VT today according to Drive Electric Vermont. My wife and I drive two of them. My work vehicle is an all-electric Chevy Bolt EV and she drives a Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid that can go short distances in all-electric mode and get about 650 miles on a small tank of gas. I installed a Level 2 charger in my garage and can charge up my Bolt with about 200 miles of range in a few hours at home. The improved acceleration of EVs makes them extremely fun to drive, and the lack of any tailpipe emissions makes the air cleaner. The low cost of fuel and maintenance, combined with some tax incentives more than makes up for the somewhat higher purchase cost of EVs. For the Prius Prime, the net sticker price was cheaper than our old Prius. Thanks Handy Toyota! EV costs are on the decline with new models coming out every year.
According to testimony from the Dept. of Public Service, when I charge up at night I’m using excess, cheap baseload capacity on the electric grid and subsidizing other ratepayers with the new load. When I charge at work or at home during the day, I’m often drawing from solar generation.
Last year, UVM’s legislative research service wrote a report at the request of Rep. Fegard about lifecycle carbon emissions from EVs. Due to Vermont’s relatively low-carbon grid mix, EVs here have much lower lifetime carbon emissions than gas vehicles. The information presented in the Messenger’s editorial on 2/11/20 may have been calculated based on EVs drawing from high carbon sources in other parts of the country or outdated information about lifecycle emissions.
Vermont utilities get much of their power from renewables and low-carbon sources. We already purchase significant amounts of hydroelectric power from Hydro Quebec and others, some nuclear from out-of-state and an increasing amount of in-state renewables like the solar on my roof. After considering the production and use emissions of EVs in Vermont, UVM researchers wrote “As it stands today, electric vehicles present a cleaner alternative to conventional vehicles.” You can read their report at https://www.uvm.edu/~vlrs/Environment/EV%20Batteries.pdf.
In his 2019 State of the State speech, Governor Scott said that Vermonter’s could benefit from EVs because we export roughly $800 million per year to buy transportation fuels. So switching our light duty trucks and passenger vehicles to EVs over the next decade could save us $500 million annually. Members of all political parties agree that EVs provide the opportunity to begin addressing this sector accounting for 45% of our state’s carbon footprint. We can grow our green economy and at the same time save Vermonters millions. EVs are only one small part of the solution, but they are an easy, fun and increasingly more affordable step toward a climate-friendly transportation future.
Rep. Mike McCarthy, St. Albans