Sharing the Road with Electric Vehicles

December 12, 2012

Driving around Connecticut in recent years, you have likely seen an increase in the number of hybrid and electric vehicles traveling on our roads. While gas prices have slowly started to decrease, many drivers have turned to these vehicles in an effort to increase fuel efficiency and save some money. Some of these vehicles are more expensive than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles, but they often pay off over time with incentives or fuel savings.

This week, I would like to share some information about these vehicles, including an interesting online resource that is managed by the federal government called The site is maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Additional data is provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the site, hybrid vehicles “combine features of internal combustion engines and electric motors.” Most of these vehicles run on gasoline and do not have to be plugged in to recharge. Likewise, electric vehicles are “propelled by an electric motor powered by rechargeable battery packs.” Some vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Volt, are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which “are hybrids with high capacity batteries that can be charged by plugging them into an electrical outlet or charging station.”

These vehicles have both benefits and challenges. They tend to be energy efficient, environmentally friendly, have performance benefits, and reduce energy dependence. However, they also have a limited range of between 100 and 200 miles, whereas gasoline vehicles can often travel 300 miles before refueling. It can also take between four and eight hours to fully recharge batteries. They also have expensive battery costs and may have less space than other vehicles due to the size and weight of batteries.

Some are also eligible for incentives that were intended to encourage greater fuel efficiency and Prior to July 1, 2008, the State of Connecticut exempted sales tax for the purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles. Since then, these state exemptions have expired, but several incentives for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles are still available from the federal government.

Those electric vehicles purchased after January 1, 2010 may be eligible for a federal income tax credit up to $7,500. Some of the more well-known brands include the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Motors cars. The plug-in hybrids are also eligible for up to $7,500, and include the Chevrolet Volt among others.

Plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles need a place to recharge their batteries. Some are able to change at home, but the charging infrastructure is growing. Today, there are about 55 public electric charging stations located around the state. In our area, there are several of these stations located nearby, including:

  • Hartford Life, 200 Hopmeadow Street, Simsbury
  • Hoffman Nissan, 46 Albany Turnpike, West Simsbury
  • Torrington Town Hall, 140 Main Street, Torrington
  • Wilson Nissan, 1530 East Main Street, Torrington

With relatively high energy prices, we can assume that the use of hybrid and electric vehicles will continue to increase in the coming years. While challenges remain, including limited range and how to dispose of batteries, innovations will likely increase efficiency and limit these issues in the future. If you are interested in learning more about fuel economy or hybrid and electric vehicles, please visit the Fuel Economy website at