Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s “Drive Electric Week” lured dozens of curious commuters to the Fairfield Railroad Station parking lot Sept. 12. It brought several salesmen representing new-car dealers who sell electric vehicles — EVs for short — but some of the most powerful sales pitches came from people who drive electric cars every day.
Among the all-electric and gasoline-electric hybrid models on hand were two of the 1,000 all-electric 2014 Honda Fit models that were leased to American owners. The Kolarich family of Fairfield brought their Reflection Blue Pearl EV to the event and spoke enthusiastically of its performance and versatility. Its 75-mile range allows Tracy Kolarich to drive it to and from her job, and use it to ferry children Kylie and Maksim around in the early evening, without recharging until nighttime. By morning, it’s ready for another day’s work.
Nick Kolarich, who leased the Fit, last year said he planned to acquire an electric car all along in the spirit of reducing his family’s carbon footprint. He was leaning toward the Nissan Leaf until he learned about the special lease arrangement for the Fit.
Kolarich figures it costs him $60 a month to keep the Fit charged. He’s also able to tap free electricity from public charging stations. The Malloy administration boasts Connecticut now has so many such stations, it is now free of “range anxiety”– the fear many EV owners have of running down their batteries in the middle of nowhere.
Tesla, which has no stores in Connecticut because the legislature never quite got around to authorizing direct sales from the manufacturer to the customer last spring, also was well represented by two owners. (Connecticut residents can buy the big, long-range sedans online or in Westchester County, register them in Connecticut and have repair work done by a Tesla service center in Milford.)
Brian Greenspan of Sandy Hook brought his black Tesla S85 to the Fairfield event. Unlike the other EVs on display in Fairfield, it has a built-in range-anxiety deflector: The S85, with a massive lithium-ion battery pack under the passenger compartment, can go up to 265 miles without a charge. And specialized “superchargers” in many public locations can bring a Tesla battery from nearly dead to half full in less than 30 minutes.
Other EVs on hand included the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, Volkswagen e-Golf and Nissan Leaf. Among the hybrid models were the Ford Fusion and Porsche Panamera.
One of the more popular stops at the event was Sam Connor’s collection of electric bicycles. Connor, of Zane’s Cycles in Fairfield, was letting people test-ride the bikes in the railroad station’s parking lot. He said the bikes have a range of 16 to 35 miles. The electric motor assists the rider in pedaling the bike, rather than actually driving it. While these bikes aren’t major sellers in his shop — just five have gone out the door since March — and can cost thousands of dollars, they’re potentially attractive to commuters and riders who need the assistance the electric motor provides.
Many EV buyers can claim a $7,500 federal tax credit and $3,000 from the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate (CHEAPR) program. With the Leaf, smart ED, VW e-Golf and Chevrolet Spark EV costing less than $30,000, these government grants and credits lower the price of admission to electric motoring into the teens.
Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau observed that the lineup of EVs and hybrids — ranging in price from the $22,995 Mitsubishi i-MiEV to a million-dollar hybrid Porsche supercar, the 918 Spyder — shows the vehicles are starting to appeal to mainstream drivers because they’re becoming cost-effective as well as environmentally friendly. “Electric cars can be cool,” said Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and fulltime editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.