CT’s Field of Dreams: If We Build It, Electric Vehicles Will Come to the State

A panel of Connecticut’s energy, environmental, transportation and economic development leaders reached consensus this week on a road map for supporting the next generation of plug in electric vehicles.

The initiatives identified in the report, state officials said, promise to create incentives for electric car consumers and send clear signals to the automobile industry and trade allies that Connecticut should be high on the deployment list for the next generation of clean cars.  Officials also promised that the efforts would help the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy independence and security.

The Electric Vehicles Infrastructure Council, which was formed last November in response to an executive order issued by Gov. M. Jodi Rell, issued its Final Report Wednesday, identifying strategic priorities intended to pave the way for improvements like a network of public and in-home charging stations and legislative priorities that would offer tax incentives to help consumers avoid sticker shock.

Council members emphasized in the final report that Connecticut’s goal is to gain early access to the first wave of mass-produced electric cars, vehicles promising to promote green jobs and smart grid features while reducing carbon dioxide, a key contributor to global climate change.

Two automobile manufacturers with next generation electric cars in development, General Motors and Nissan, have already informed the state government that, especially given the interest and industry support demonstrated by the work of the Council, they plan to include Connecticut in their first wave of product roll-outs this fall.  While welcome news, that also puts pressure on the state’s electric utility industry, building officials, transportation officials, utility regulators and others to work together to develop public electric vehicle charging stations and facilitate the deployment of affordable home charging stations so that electric vehicles can charge in garages overnight.

Only 24 Connecticut motorists have registered plug-in electric vehicles in the state so far, but the Council’s Final Report sets a goal of 25,000 by 2020.  To achieve that goal, officials agreed they need to work together to streamline regulatory and permitting processes, encouraging overnight charging with favorable “time-of-use” electric rates, and build public-private partnerships to develop a network of convenient charging stations across the state to ease so-called “range anxiety,” the fear that a motorist might not be able to find charging stations on the road.  Rapid installation of home charging stations is also critical, officials said, to ensure that electric vehicle buyers can get the home equipment installed promptly after purchasing the new vehicles from auto dealer showrooms.

The Council concluded that addressing these infrastructure concerns and enacting tax incentives and other laws that streamline approvals for electric vehicles will induce consumer interest in buying the vehicles and attract the industry to prioritize the upcoming product releases in Connecticut.

Many of the more than 30 recommendations of the Council are underway already, as officials form implementation teams to begin to tackle the challenges of the industry.

All documents and presentations assembled by the Council can be viewed by copying the following URL into your browser: http://www.ct.gov/dpuc/cwp/view.asp?a=3856&q=452086. 

Read the Climate Lawyers blog at McCarter & English, LLP.