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Advocates make another push for direct sales of electric vehicles in Connecticut

Tesla car electric vehicle
Chris Yarzab

Last year, Democrats introduced a bill that allowed electric vehicle manufacturers, like Tesla, to directly sell their electric vehicles without opening a franchised dealership in Connecticut. The legislation was never voted on by either chamber of the state’s state Legislature, despite having bipartisan support in the transportation committee.

The bill was one of several bills introduced in the past few years that would permit direct electric vehicle sales. None of these proposals, however, have passed. Advocates are now calling on the state to pass legislation to loosen restrictions.

Barry Kresch, the president of the Electric Vehicle Club of Connecticut, said it could supercharge the state’s slow adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

“It’s a law that will strengthen consumer choice. It will accelerate EV adoption, and give us cleaner air and it will bring jobs to the state,” Kresch said.

State Senator Will Haskell, a Democrat of Westport who introduced the bill last year, argued legislation would help tackle the state’s struggles to meet it’s EV goals. In 2020, Connecticut committed to an electric vehicle adoption goal of putting 150,000 EVs on the road by 2025. As of January 1, only 21,000 are registered in the state.

But Republicans said now is not the right time for this legislation. They warn that selling directly to consumers will kill car dealerships, which are already struggling due to the pandemic.

“The Transportation Committee should table any consideration of the topic of direct-to-customer electric vehicle sales until the 2023 legislative session in order to avoid even an iota of impropriety. Failing to do so would take the focus away from the complexities of this subject that deserves conversation centered on policy — not politics,” said State Senator Heather Somers and Representative Devin Carney, both ranking Republican members of the state transportation committee, in a joint statement last week.

Kresch said consumers are missing out if the state denies them access to their next vehicle.

“The current set of laws are just simply anti-consumer and restraint of trade that consumers should be able to buy whatever vehicle they want and however they want to buy it,” Kresch said.

The state Legislature’s 2022 session will convene on Wednesday.

The push for new legislation comes as Connecticut utilities kicked off the year with the launch of a new electric vehicle program. This plan was designed to create the installation of more than 60,000 public and private charging stations in the state by 2030. Also, an incentive program was approved last summer by the state’s utility companies that will offer rebates and electric bill credits for homeowners and businesses that install chargers.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.