Recent News & Opportunities
By Michael J. Caduto, Geoff Martin & Jenevra Wetmore
In 2020, Woodstock’s Select Board and Village Trustees passed a Climate Emergency and Action Resolution, with the goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Roughly 40% of Vermont’s emissions come from transportation, the bulk of which are generated by passenger vehicles. On average, every Vermonter is responsible for between 5-6 tons of carbon emissions from driving. So making progress towards the net-zero goal means changing the way we get around.
According to the Energy Action Network’s 2021 Annual Progress Report for Vermont, in order to meet the state’s statutory emissions reduction requirements by 2030, 41% of those reductions need to come from transportation, including changes in our driving habits, car and van-pooling and increased efficiencies. Transitioning to electric vehicles needs to account for 35% of the total reductions in transportation emissions. This would require Vermonters to be driving 120,000 EVs by 2030.
EAN estimates that, by purchasing an electric vehicle (EV) versus a fossil fuel-powered vehicle, a household will save some $1,500 on the cost of maintenance and fuel, and will reduce carbon emissions by 3.5 tons per year, or 42 tons over the lifetime of that EV. Taking into account the operating costs— including cost of gas and maintenance costs—gas vehicle drivers spend nearly $10,000 more on operations and maintenance over the course of 150,000 miles. And, at this time, Vermont’s total reliance on imported fossil fuels is responsible for $1.5 billion of Vermonters’ hard-earned income going out of state.
While EVs are a critical piece of the puzzle for reducing Vermont’s fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, their costs are prohibitive for many individuals and families with low-to-moderate incomes, and emblematic of the many inequities and opportunity gaps when it comes to sustainable living. Fortunately, there are a number of economic incentives available for those looking to buy or lease an EV, which are described in detail on Drive Electric Vermont’s website (www.driveelectricvt.com). The State of Vermont allocated $2.7 million for incentives in the FY2022 Transportation Bill/Act 55. Along with the federal incentive of up to $7,500 depending on the size of the battery and your annual tax liability, the state also offers up to $4,000 for income-eligible Vermonters purchasing or leasing a new electric vehicle. Drive Electric Vermont also helps Vermonters explore and compare electric cars.
Vermont also has a separate, used-vehicle incentives program for lower income households. The MileageSmart Program, run through Capstone Community Action, provides 25% of the vehicle cost, up to $5,000, towards the purchase of a used, high-efficiency vehicle. This program is only for income-eligible Vermonters who are at or below 80% median income, based on household size. Any loans taken out to cover the cost of the car must come from a Vermont lender. Aside from the 25% incentive, you’ll be investing in a high-efficiency car that gets more miles to the gallon and saves you money at the pump. For more information visit www.mileagesmartvt.org.
Given these facts, you might hope that the market is shifting to EVs, or to vehicles that consume less gas. However, in 2019, 80% of new vehicles bought in Vermont were SUVs or light trucks. Eight years ago, that percentage was 55%. Instead of trending towards cars that consume less gas, Vermont is following a global trend of rising truck and SUV sales. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions 90% by 2050 will require far more progress in transportation. Though this will include increased public transportation options and exciting projects such as electrifying school buses, it will also depend on individual Vermonters making the choice to decrease their transportation emissions.
One of the most impactful things you can do to lower Woodstock’s transportation emissions is replacing your gas-powered vehicle with an electric one. Driving an EV powered by electricity from Vermont’s electric grid reduces greenhouse gas emissions per mile by between 70-80%. As the grid becomes cleaner, this percentage will increase. And if you have solar panels, you can power your car now with 100% clean, renewable energy.
It’s understandable that many people feel intimidated about making the switch to an EV. The fear of running out of battery mid-trip is so common that it has its own term – “range anxiety”. And while it’s certainly possible to run out of battery power (as it is to run out of gas!), there are many reasons to feel confident that you can get around in an EV.
While there are several charging stations in Woodstock and surrounding towns, the reality is that most charging actually takes place at home. Green Mountain Power (GMP) currently offers a free charger for customers that own an EV, meaning you just have to pay for the cost of installation. These chargers can easily provide a full charge for your vehicle overnight, and in some cases in just a few hours. GMP also offers special charging rates for EVs, which make the cost of charging equivalent to paying $1.00 per gallon for gasoline!
There will be times when charging on the road is necessary, even if you have charged up at home. Thankfully, Vermont has the highest per-capita rate of public EV charging stations in the country, and the state is funding the installation of more charging stations to continue to build out this charging station network. For longer trips, there are fast charging stations (fast enough to get you back on the road in 15 minutes) along I-89 from Hartford to St. Albans, and along I-91 from Bennington to Bradford. The state is investing in 11 new fast chargers along highway corridors in the next 2 years, which will make it easier than ever to travel throughout Vermont in an EV.
If you do make the switch to an EV, you will not be alone. As of 2020, there were 44 electric vehicles registered in Woodstock, and there are currently 6,585 EVs registered across the state. It can be helpful to talk with an EV owner about the benefits and challenges to owning an EV, so reach out to a friend or neighbor that owns one and learn more.