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Wicked Local North Andover : State pushes electric vehicles

Environmental officials are looking at revamping the state’s electric and hybrid vehicle incentives, which until now largely have focused on installing charging stations and offering towns and cities grants for buying cleaner-running fleets.

In March, government officials held a roundtable with businesses, utilities and environmental advocates to discuss the state of electric vehicles in Massachusetts and what can be done to get more on the road.

Out of that meeting came the Electric Vehicle Initiative – a state effort to take a fresh look at incentives and outreach that could spur more drivers to go electric. Environmental officials are scheduling meetings on the topic in September, said Linda Benevides, a member of the Environmental Engineer Policy Team at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

“We’re hoping to have a really different portfolio by the end of next year,” she said.

Nothing specific has been proposed yet, and Benevides said there is “a whole fleet of things to be looked at.”

An idea that came up often at the roundtable is for the state to offer an incentive to help bring down the relatively high upfront cost of electric vehicles, Benevides said. The state offers no such perk now, though there is a federal tax credit of $7,500 available for electric cars and SUVs.

“Even though you save money on fuel every year, it’s that out-of-pocket expense that makes it a challenge,” Benevides said.

Other potential steps would not cost anything, such as priority parking or access to carpool lanes for electric vehicle drivers, she said. New public education campaigns on the potential benefits of electric cars or trucks also could come out of the initiative.

Stephen Russell, who runs both the state’s Clean Cities coalition and the Department of Energy Resources’ alternative transportation program, cited as an example a Northborough company, Protonex, where he said employees have leased Nissan Leaf cars. The fuel savings are paying for the cost of the leases, he said.

Russell said it also may be worth pointing out to drivers that electric vehicles require no oil changes or maintenance of transmission systems.



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