by Timothy McQuiston Vermont Business Magazine You can fill up your car with electricity for the equivalent of $1.50 a gallon of gas. Burlington Electric Department has a way to drop that to around $1 a gallon equivalent, while also reducing the upfront costs of electric vehicles. The upfront cost has been the primary barrier for people who want an EV from buying an EV. Burlington Electric today, in partnership with three local credit unions, launched a first-in-Vermont, new financing program to help make EVs more affordable for its customers. The plan could reduce upfront costs or financing for both fully electric and hybrid electric vehicles. The credit unions – Green Mountain Credit Union, Vermont Federal Credit Union, and VSECU – are offering low- and, under certain circumstances, no-interest loans and allowing Burlington Electric customers to apply their $600, $1,200, or $1,800 Burlington Electric EV incentives toward the purchase of EVs.
During the announcement, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said: “For Burlington to be successful in achieving its net zero energy city goal, we must tackle the transportation sector’s significant and growing greenhouse gas emissions. Driving electric is an important part of this environmental strategy to create significant emissions reductions. Once again, Burlington Electric and members of the Burlington community are leading the way in creating innovative solutions to our climate challenges.”
BED is a department of the City of Burlington.
“Today’s launch serves as another example of Burlington Electric’s ongoing commitment to build a sustainable energy future that reduces carbon emissions and supports a growing economy and a thriving community,” said Neale Lunderville, Burlington Electric Department General Manager. “Our innovative EV financing program serves as a key component in our efforts to drive our strategic net zero vision in the transportation sector. We are excited to provide Burlingtonians with a clean, affordable, and convenient transportation choice that will help with the transition from fossil fuel-burning cars to EVs.”
In May, BED launched its EV rebate program, offering a $1,200 rebate on the purchase or lease of a new, fully electric vehicle, and then in June added plug-in hybrids to its EV rebate program, offering a $600 rebate on the purchase or lease of a plug-in hybrid. Then, in October, BED increased by $600 its rebate on fully electric vehicles (but not plug-in hybrids) to a total of $1,800 for low- to moderate-income Vermonters based on a self-certification process that can be found on the rebate form on BED’s website. Since May 2017, Burlington Electric has awarded its customers with 38 rebates, totaling $43,800.
A remaining challenge for Burlingtonians interested in purchasing EVs has been how to lower the cost of an EV at the point of sale. Until yesterday, the Burlington Electric rebate had been available only after the sale and was unavailable for use at the time of EV purchase.. Further, customers had to wait months to access the federal tax credit if they were eligible to receive one. BED plans to offer the new EV financing program as long as it is successful and will evaluate rebate amounts annually. The program, which is available to both residential and commercial customers, helps in at least two significant ways.
First, instead of having to wait for a rebate check, Burlington Electric customers have the opportunity to finance through BED’s credit union partners and have the full BED rebate available up-front to help “buy down” interest rates for their EV loans.
Second, while receiving a federal tax credit does not happen more quickly, once a customer does receive a tax credit, BED’s credit union partners will allow BED customers to re-amortize their loans by applying any federal EV tax credits, which may total as much as $7,500, toward paying down the loan and making monthly payments even more affordable.
Lunderville said there is plenty of capacity in the BED system for thousands of Burlington residents to sign up for the plan. He said it would not impact BED's 100 percent renewable portfolio. Lunderville said residents will be incentivized to re-charge their vehicles overnight night, when rates are cheaper and there is far-less impact on the grid.
Mayor Weinberger himself took advantage of the incentive plan offered for the Nissan Leaf last year, which reduced the cost of the fully electric sub-compact by up to $10,000. He mostly charges it overnight. BED has generally lower electric rates than the state average. Weinberger said his monthly electric bill went up from about $80 a month to around $100, or he estimates $20-$25. The average BED residential electric rate is $66 (390 kilowatt hours); rates are 20 percent lower now than they were in 1989. The Vermont average is about $110 a month, up about 10 percent over that time, with US average rates up 28 percent.
Lunderville emphasized that this will not impact BED's rates, which have not been raised since 2009. He said they won't go up this coming year either, giving ratepayers a full 10-year break on rate hikes.
While reducing carbon emissions for ground transportation, the new financing plan would also increase revenues for BED, Lunderville said.
Principals of the EV financing plan stand in front of a Chevy Bolt, an all-electric vehicle: Jennifer Green, Tim Daniska, Rob Miller, Mayor Weinberger, Robert Lake, Laurie Fielder (VSECU) and Neale Lunderville. VBM photo and video.
Representatives from BED’s three credit union partners attended the event and shared the following thoughts:
“Green Mountain Credit Union is excited to be partnering with Burlington Electric Department to bring its customers this amazing opportunity to purchase new electric vehicles,” stated Robert J. Lake, CEO, Green Mountain Credit Union. “We can also preapprove a BED customer’s loan request before shopping for the vehicle that best suits that customer’s family.”
“At VSECU, we’re committed to bringing people together to empower the possibilities for greater financial, environmental, and social prosperity,” said Rob Miller, CEO, VSECU, a credit union for everyone who lives or works in Vermont. “Through this new partnership with Burlington Electric Department, we’ll be able to help people purchase an EV with significantly lower monthly payments and overall financing costs.”
“Vermont Federal Credit Union is delighted to partner with Burlington Electric Department to help the residents of our city make their desire to purchase an electric vehicle more affordable,” stated Tim Daniska, Director of Consumer Lending, Vermont Federal Credit Union. “It is our mission to make a decided difference in the lives of our members and our community, and we believe this is an excellent way to further achieve that mission. With the combination of our great rates and products and services and BED’s expertise in energy programs and available rebates, we will be able to provide a great service to the residents of Burlington, Vermont.”
The three partner credit unions each will offer different rates, and customers will qualify at different levels depending on vehicle price, customer credit rating, and loan term.
Burlington Electric anticipates that the credit unions will offer some low- and zero-interest loans through the program.
Burlington Electric customers are invited and encouraged to check in with one or more of BED’s credit union partners for more information, including to inquire about rates, before purchasing an EV or plug-in hybrid. The following credit union representatives are ready to assist: Green Mountain Credit Union, John Knox, 802..864.6892; Vermont Federal Credit Union, Tim Daniska, 802.923.1133; VSECU, Laurie Fielder, 802.371.3136.
Jennifer Green, City of Burlington Sustainability Officer, also participated in today’s announcement, stating: “The electrification of the transportation sector, together with mixed-use and downtown development, bike and walk infrastructure, and robust public transit, is critical to our greenhouse gas reduction and sustainability vision. This exciting relationship with our financial partners is an important step in realizing this vision and our net zero energy future.”
A current list of qualifying EVs may be found on the Burlington Electric website. The Drive Electric Vermont website provides helpful information about these qualifying EVs, including vehicle range, MSRPs, and tax credits. Customers or dealers with questions about EV eligibility or any other questions related to BED’s EV rebate and financing programs are invited to contact Burlington Electric’s Energy Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of its efforts to encourage more Burlingtonians and Vermonters to go electric and to bolster Vermont’s EV charging stations network, Burlington Electric has installed 14 EV charging stations, totaling 26 charging ports, around the City. Charging stations are located on Main Street near City Hall, in both the Marketplace and Cherry Street parking garages, at Burlington Electric’s Pine Street facility, in strategic locations around the University of Vermont campus, at the Miller Information Commons parking lot at Champlain College, and at Hannaford supermarket in the New North End. A map of EV charging station locations can be found here.
Burlington Electric looks forward to expanding its financing partnerships in the future to help make other innovative technologies more readily available to more Burlingtonians.