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LOWELL — The idea of getting an electric vehicle may sound good to potential buyers, but sometimes the price tag can be a deterrent. The Drive Green program through the Mass Energy Consumers Alliance may be an incentive for some to finally get behind the wheel of an electric car.
Through Feb. 28, dealerships across the commonwealth and Rhode Island, including Lannan Chevrolet of Lowell, will be offering discounts of its electric vehicles as part of the Drive Green program.
“The biggest thing that we can do is raise awareness, and that’s what I want to do at our location,” said Steve Alesse, general manager at the dealership. “We felt that there was an opportunity to educate, promote and increase the general awareness of the availability and the cost of driving one of these vehicles.”
At Lannan Chevrolet of Lowell customers will receive a tax credit of up to $7,500 and state rebate of up to $2,500 for the purchase or lease of the vehicle. Before those tax credits, the base manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the Chevy Volt is $34,095.
Since the Volt’s inception in 2010, Lannan Chevrolet of Lowell has been selling the vehicle. The Volt is battery-powered, but has backup gas motor to recharge the battery.
“Beyond the awareness factor of alternative fuel vehicles, I think that the federal and state government has made it very financially attractive as well with certain tax credits that they offer,” Alesse said. “When you take the tax credit into consideration, it’s an affordable vehicle.
Most electric and hybrid vehicles take eight to 10 hours to fully charge according to Brett Smith, conference strategy co-director at the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan. Smith said because the Volt is a hybrid, the consumer doesn’t have anxiety about charge time and what range the vehicle can travel on electric power.
But one downside to buying electric cars, according to Smith, is that batteries do not last as long in colder weather no matter the car company or battery technician. The number of charging stations has also been a factor consumers take into consideration.
“Some of the installations that were put in were not fast charging. There are different chargers for different brands,” Smith said, adding that California is leading in its development of the charging infrastructure.
He said the East Coast is behind California in this development, but still doing better than the rest of the nation.
Alesse said charging stations around here can often be found at office parks, but these stations become more prevalent getting closer to Boston. However, Alesse said most of their customers are charging their vehicles at home.
Mike Richards is the sales and leasing consultant at Lannan Chevrolet of Lowell as well as its Volt specialist. Richards said electric cars are more expensive by nature because of the amount of technology that goes into creating one, but that the Volt is one of the more reasonably priced electric cars.
“The Volt is an economical vehicle,” Richards said. “This car is identical to the Cruise, just the engine and propulsion is different.”
Overall, hybrid vehicles, like the Volt, make up about 2.5 percent of the motor vehicle market, according to Smith. However the hybrid car market did shrink last year. Smith said the plug-in electric car market grew several thousand units, but makes up a much smaller portion of the market. With gas prices fairly low last year, Smith said there was not a strong economic driver for consumers to purchase electric vehicles. However, this tax rebate may be the incentive people need to make the purchase.
“If you are concerned about supporting the alternative fuel concept, I think it’s a vehicle for everyone,” Alesse said. “But, specifically, the use is maximized for those consumers who have a commute to work that’s 25 miles or less one way.”
The Drive Green program through Mass Energy, a nonprofit organization, is also in effect at dealerships in Arlington, Braintree, Holyoke, Lynnfield, Marlborough, Milford, Needham, Norwell, West Springfield and East Providence, Rhode Island. Other discounted electric vehicles include the Nissan Leaf, Ford Fusion Energi and Kia e-Soul.
“It’s important that customers are aware of their options, they’re educated about the technology and understand the affordability of driving an electric vehicle,” Alesse said.
For more information on the Chevy Volt and the Drive Green program, call Lannan Chevrolet of Lowell at 978-458-2526. More information can also be found at www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car.
Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter and Tout @KoriTuitt.