State Democrats Driving Ahead with Electric Vehicle Mandate, Local Skepticism Remains

BMW's newest fully electric car, the BMW i5, at BMW Darien (CT Examiner).

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DARIEN — Democrats will decide this week whether to hold a special session to push through a ban on gas-powered vehicle sales, according to Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk. 

The attempt to adopt California’s emission standards in Connecticut and mandate a shift to electric vehicles by 2035 was stymied last fall due to concerns that the state lacks the necessary infrastructure. 

But State Rep. Tracy Marra, R-Darien, said while she supports efforts to reduce emissions, Connecticut residents shouldn’t be forced to buy fully electric vehicles.  

“We still have a long way to go in terms of building a reliable energy grid and enough charging stations,” she said.

The scarcity of charging stations is dampening consumer interest in fully electric cars, according to George Santangelo, vice president of BMW Darien.  

“There is demand but not as much as the government thinks there is,” he said.

Santangelo said his dealership is selling more electric cars, but they still represent only a small percentage of sales. Customers are more interested in hybrids, he added.

Even without a state mandate, developers of high-end residential housing in Darien are anticipating and embracing a growth in EV ownership.  

“The reality is that the adoption rate will increase,” Baywater Properties CEO David Genovese said.  

When finished, Baywater’s development, the Corbin District, will have electrical infrastructure to support enough charging stations for all of its residential tenants. 

“We’re looking at it as a good thing to do for the environment and as an amenity that gives us a competitive advantage,” Genovese added.

Joe Vaccaro, partner at V20 Group, said they also “took into account that our future tenants will own an electric vehicle” when planning Heights Crossing, a residential and retail development currently under construction in the Noroton Heights neighborhood. 

”It’s the way of the times,” he said.  

When completed next year, Heights Crossing will have 12 EV charging stations, eight of which will be available for use by the general public. 

Installing charging stations to attract prospective tenants may be a smart investment, but it’s not an affordable one, according to Avalon Darien supervisor Alexandra Hall. She said the housing complex doesn’t currently offer EV charging stations for its residents, but has plans to install them sometime this year.  

“It’s a big project,” she said, and “very costly.” 

The regular legislative session starts on Feb. 7, and the special session on the EV mandate, if advanced by state Democrats, would be held next week.