Connecticut can switch to electric vehicles without harming consumers

We are fortunate to live in a state that has always been at the forefront of environmental laws. For example, Connecticut was the first state in the nation to have a cabinet-level commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

State leaders have been laying the groundwork for widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) since at least 2013, when Connecticut joined what is now a nine-state agreement to deploy 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles. ‘by 2025. Many automakers — from Ford to General Motors to Volkswagen — plan to bring millions of electric vehicles to market by then, creating a cleaner, safer and healthier environment.

But Connecticut has also been a leader in consumer protection, passing the “Lemon Law” in 1982, one of many measures that ensure car buyers cannot be taken advantage of.

These laws won’t apply to some premium electric vehicles that want to sell directly to Connecticut consumers, bypassing the dealership system that operates under state law. Here’s the reality of direct selling: when something goes wrong with your car, it’s you against the manufacturer, with no dealership obligated by law to help you. That’s what premium EV manufacturers don’t want you to consider.

Tesla, Lucid and Rivian can sell their cars in Connecticut — right now — under the same laws that all other automakers must follow. They can start doing it today, but they choose not to. And they use environmental claims to deviate from their anti-consumer business model.

It’s like a company announcing that it will open a new factory in Connecticut, but only if it is not required to follow state minimum wage or overtime laws.

Connecticut dealerships are key to the mass adoption of electric vehicles. All Connecticut new car dealerships are fully committed to selling them; Volvo, Audi, Chevrolet, Ford, Mercedes, Nissan and many other manufacturers have electric vehicles on the market today, and by 2023 the auto industry will have invested more than $250 billion in electrification. With more than 45 options for electric vehicles and projections for 80 electric vehicles to hit the market soon, Connecticut dealerships are making the purchase, maintenance and charging of electric vehicles easily accessible to all consumers.

And unlike EV makers who seek the direct-selling model — led by Tesla — Connecticut’s new-car dealerships sell EVs aimed at everyday consumers. The Chevrolet Bolt, for example, has one of the longest battery lives and sells for $36,500. The Chevy Bolt and other primary EVs generally serve as the primary vehicle for the driver, unlike more expensive brands of EVs which are often a second or third car for a buyer.

Since 2015, the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection have worked together through the CHEAPR program to provide incentives for consumers who purchase electric vehicles. The CHEAPR program now offers specific incentives for low-to-middle income people to provide expanded access to electric vehicles.

Connecticut car dealerships are also helping the state build a robust charging infrastructure and offer universal charging ports that work with any electric car. Connecticut dealerships invest millions of dollars in more than 600 charging stations, including several super chargers, making the charging process quick and efficient. Many chargers at dealerships are open to the public, whether you bought your car from that dealership or not, often for free. This number will continue to increase this year and next as dealers continue to install more chargers.

The way Connecticut will meet its EV goals under the legislated greenhouse gas reduction goal is with affordable vehicles driven daily by the average worker. Bypassing our consumer protection laws for the benefit of a few companies whose products are intended for the most affluent is not the way to achieve our environmental objectives.

Hayden Reynolds is owner and managing director of Reynolds Subaru in Lyme. Jeff Aiosa is owner and president of Mercedes-Benz of New London. Paul Garavel is the main dealer of Garavel Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge/Ram