Record number of electric vehicles registered in CT before gas prices soared, data shows

Photo of Luther Turmelle

Even before the recent surge in gas prices, interest in electric vehicles had been rapidly rising in Connecticut, according to industry experts and car registration data.

Connecticut registered its most electric vehicles of all time during the last six months of 2021, according to data from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Between July 1 and Dec. 31 last year, 5,407 electric vehicles were registered in Connecticut, the data showed. That’s about 25 percent of the 21,382 total number of electric vehicles registered in the state as of Dec. 31, according to the data. The DMV only reports the number of electric vehicle registrations every six months.

More than 1,300 electric vehicles were registered in Greenwich and about 1,000 in Stamford as of Dec. 31, the data showed. In Westport, where 890 electric vehicles were registered at the end of last year, 1 in 22 adults in town are likely to drive an electric vehicle, the data showed.

According to a Washington trade group, Connecticut had the third-largest increase in electric vehicle market share during the fourth quarter of 2021 compared with the same period the previous year. Officials with the Alliance for Automotive Innovation said the electric vehicle market share in Connecticut increased by 2.8 percent during the last three months of 2021.

The interest in electric vehicles appears to have continued into 2022 as gas prices have soared.

Gas prices in Connecticut have reached record highs this month before declining somewhat to more than $4.30 this week, according to AAA. A year ago, the average price of a gallon of gas in Connecticut was less than $3.

A survey released this month by QuoteWizard, a Seattle online insurance information company, found the number of online searches by Connecticut residents for information about electric or hybrid cars increased by 107 percent in recent weeks. Nick VinZant, a senior research analyst with QuoteWizard, said that represents the third-highest increase among all states.

More Connecticut residents are driving electric vehicles even though they are difficult to purchase in the state.

Connecticut law bans the direct sale of electric vehicles from manufacturers to customers. However, state lawmakers advanced legislation last week that would allow the sales. The bill, which still faces strong opposition from traditional car dealers, will next move to the Senate, where last year’s legislation died.

Switching to electric or hybrid vehicles has been a growing trend for some time, according to Chip Gengras, president and partner in Gengras Motor Cars, an East Hartford-based company that operates nine car dealerships in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.

“Over the last 18 months, we have seen lots of interest in electric vehicles as more and more companies announce their plans,” Gengras said. “The interest is there across the board, across all the different brands and models we sell.”

Chris Knowings, a Danbury resident, placed an order in November for a Tesla Model Y that is scheduled to be delivered this summer.

“I’ve driven a few electric vehicles, and overall, I’ve found them to be fun to drive, low maintenance and high tech,” Knowings said. “Environmental benefits are a plus. The price of gas was probably the last factor for me, but now it’s the most relevant.”

Of all the electric vehicles registered in Connecticut, 41.8 percent — 8,944 — are Teslas, according to Barry Kresch, president of the EV Club of Connecticut. Toyota has the next largest number of electric vehicles registered in Connecticut with 3,238.

“I think they have the leading technology,” Kresch said about Tesla’s popularity in Connecticut. “And this is a company that puts the environment at the center of their vision.”

He said Tesla also has understood the importance of addressing what is commonly known as “range anxiety” — drivers who fear they will not find a charging port before their vehicle runs out of power.

“They had the vision to understand that a barrier to people buying their cars was a place to charge them,” Kresch said. “So they built their own nationwide network.”

There are more than 360 public electric vehicle charging stations in Connecticut, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Tesla has 1,400 charging locations in all 50 states, each with a varying number of ports.

luther.turmelle@hearstmediact.com