Connecticut wants to teach the country how to sell electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
In May, it became the first state to offer cash-on-the-hood rebates for EVs or plug-in hybrids, such as the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and Ford C-Max Energi.
"We're a small state, but we have some big ideas, and maybe we can show California how to do this" by using automaker-style customer rebates, said Jim Fleming, president of the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association in Hartford. "It's a bit of an experiment."
The Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate program has set aside $1 million for rebates from $750 to $3,000 per electrified vehicle, depending on battery size. The rebates are on top of a $2,500 to $7,500 federal tax credit for the vehicles.
A small part of the $1 million fund is set aside for dealer cash to motivate salespeople to promote the vehicles.
When the CHEAPR program started on May 19, about 3,000 EVs were registered with the state, said a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Through July, 125 EVs and plug-in hybrids have been sold as part of the program. Of those, 57 qualified for the maximum $3,000 rebate.
Jeff Aiosa, owner of the Mercedes-Benz dealership Carriage House of New London Inc., quickly sold out of the B-class Electric Drive when the program started. The car, with a battery capacity greater than 18 kilowatt-hours, qualifies for a $3,000 cash rebate. Aiosa is waiting to get more of the cars in stock.
"We weren't selling them heavily before," Aiosa said. "The program certainly created some amped-up demand."