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Some leaders in Connecticut are so confident in the state’s new electrified vehicle rebate, they believe the state can sell them more effectively than California.
“We’re a small state, but we have some big ideas, and maybe we can show California how to do this,” said Jim Fleming, president of the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association. “It’s a bit of an experiment.”
Last May, Connecticut became the first state in the country to offer rebates on advanced technology vehicles that are applied when the car is purchased. Under the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate (CHEAPR) program, buyers can receive between $750 and $3,000 as a cash-on-the-hood rebate.
Eligible for the rebate are battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), with the exact amount dependent on the vehicle’s range.
To date FCVs – such as from Honda, Hyundai or Toyota – are not available in Connecticut, but the northeastern U.S. has been discussed as a next market for them beyond California.
Meanwhile, EVs and PHEVs do benefit.
“CHEAPR just makes it more understandable at the consumer level because it’s money on the hood. It fits, it feels right and it makes it simple,” said Leo Karl. “That is why it’s helping more people take a look at EVs.”
Karl, the president of a Chevrolet dealer in New Canaan, said he sold nine new Chevrolet Volts with this rebate.
Other dealers have reported similar success. At Jeff Aiosa’s Mercedes-Benz dealership, the B-Class Electric Drive has been very popular, in part because it qualifies for the maximum $3,000 rebate.
“We weren’t selling them heavily before,” he said. “The program certainly created some amped-up demand.”
While customers receive money directly off their purchase price, dealers are also benefitting under the CHEAPR program. Each qualified sale pays dealers between $150 and $300. In the past, EV advocates have complained that some dealers don’t offer BEVs or PHEVs to customers, partially because the sales process is more complicated than with a traditional vehicle.
“This is the type of program that can be a win-win-win for the state, auto manufacturers, dealers and consumers,” said Karl.
While Connecticut is definitely seeing a rise in EV sales, the state has quite a way to go to catch up to the success of California. From the program’s beginning mid-May through July, Automotive News reported that 125 BEVs and PHEVs had been sold with the new rebates. That puts Connecticut’s on-the-road EV total at around 3,125.
In California, almost 60,000 plug-in electrified vehicles were sold in 2014 alone. Even given the drastic difference in population, California is still selling far more PEVs per person than Connecticut.
Still, the program has time to gain more footing and put more low emission vehicles on the roads before funds are set to run out, which will probably happen next spring.