By Jenevra Wetmore
Since high school I have cycled through a range of cars, mostly my parent’s leftovers. My first car was a 1994 automatic Toyota Camry (21 mpg), then a 2006 manual Toyota Corolla (31 mpg), and most recently a 2009 manual Toyota Matrix (28 mpg). Now, for the first time in my life, I am driving a hybrid vehicle. My new car is a 2017 Honda Accord hybrid that gets 48 mpg.
This is not an advertisement for the Honda Accord hybrid, but I will take a moment to exult my new (used) car. It has many things my 2009 Matrix did not, including seat warmers and a backup camera. The crowning glory is, of course, the fuel mileage. I am constantly amazed at the fact that I don’t need gas, for example, after driving to Burlington. There is a sense of relief every time I look at the fuel gauge.
Driving a gas car is more expensive than driving an electric vehicle (EV). If you take 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. If you are wondering why I personally did not go electric, I considered it. However, I spend part of my time at a rural, off-grid house without a nearby EV charging station. This would make it logistically difficult for me to drive an EV vehicle.
The biggest source of carbon pollution in Vermont comes from transportation. On average, every Vermonter is responsible for between 5-6 tons of carbon emissions from driving. If we are going to meet the goal of having 90% of our total energy use come from renewable sources by 2050—
A goal outlined in Vermont’s 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP)—we will need to reduce our transportation emissions. Making the switch to an EV or hybrid car is a way to do this, and will save you money in the long run.
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. Reaching 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.
If you are wondering how to take the step of buying an EV or hybrid car, there are resources available to help. Drive Electric Vermont helps Vermonters explore and compare electric cars, and details incentives available for new electric vehicle purchases. The Vermont Agency of Transportation worked with Vermont electric utilities to officially re-launch the State EV incentives on November 5, 2020. Income-eligible Vermonters can get up to $4,000 for purchasing or leasing an EV. There are additional federal tax incentives and utility incentives. If you are interested in buying a new EV or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, take advantage now while funds remain. For more information, visit: driveelectricvt.com.
If you are interested in buying a used electric or hybrid vehicle, there is also a newer option to help Vermont residents. The MileageSmart Program, run through Capstone Community Action, provides 25% of the vehicle cost, up to $5,000. 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.
A Level 2 EV charging stations located at the Park & Ride near Woodstock’s East End Park, 56 Pleasant Street. Photo Credit: Michael J. Caduto
What You Can Do:
On January 21st, 2021, from 5:30-6:30pm, Sustainable Woodstock will host a virtual Green Drinks event featuring the MileageSmart Program with Samantha Hurt, Program Manager at Capstone Community Action. Join us to learn more about the program and get your questions answered. Register at: mileagesmart.eventbrite.com
Data obtained from: EAN 2019 Annual Progress Report