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Could surging gas prices fuel electric car sales?

Sales of electric and hybrid vehicles are increasing in Indiana. But what are the pros and cons of trading the pump for a plug?

INDIANAPOLIS — Surging pump prices might have you thinking - is it time to give up gasoline altogether?

Sales of electric and hybrid vehicles are increasing in Indiana. But what are the pros and cons of trading the pump for a plug?

Lance Lewis is new to the electric vehicle game. He just recently bought a hybrid Chevy Volt and said the timing couldn't be better.

Just as gasoline surges to record highs, Lewis's savings are accelerating.

"I absolutely love it. I was thinking I'm really glad I bought this car a couple months ago and how do I get another one, a full electric," Lewis said. "The full charge takes about 10 1/2 kilowatt-hours, so a high average, you're talking a dollar and a quarter a day to charge the car - 10 bucks a week in electricity. OK, that's ten bucks a week to drive the car instead of $100 a week in gasoline."

The executive director of Greater Indiana Clean Cities, Kerri Garvin, said registrations for hybrids and electric vehicles are up about 25% in Indiana and interest from curious drivers is surging, too.

"Every time the gas prices jump up, so do our phone calls," Garvin said.

And soon, the infrastructure will increase, too, so more people can charge and drive longer distances, which right now, is a bit of a challenge.

Only 15 public chargers exist, for example, in downtown Indianapolis.

Credit: WTHR
There are only 15 public vehicle chargers available downtown.

But federal infrastructure dollars are pouring in to expand charging capabilities.

"There's an allocation, almost $100 million going to Indiana over the next five years for EV infrastructure," Garvin said. "That's huge."

Indiana is also part of a group of Midwest states building an electric vehicle charging network. Plus, we're getting 61 new fast chargers for Hoosier highways and interstates by 2023.

"That's including Indianapolis, which would include charging points around the 465 area as well as other opportunities within the city," said Mark Houdek, manager of customer programs for AES.

Utilities like AES are also fueling incentives for electric vehicle owners, like a $250 rebate to install fast chargers at home.

They've also partnered with a company called Motor for a subscription service where you can rent and essentially try out an electric car.

"There is absolutely a try it out offer through Motor," Houdek said. "You can sign up for a subscription, the minimum term is a month. We get daily calls about it."

Electric vehicles do still have upfront sticker shock, costing on average $4,000 to $10,000 more than a gas-powered car.

But Lewis is sold on the daily savings.

"The gas savings in my mind is going to make up for that difference," Lewis said.

He now wants to add another EV to his family's fleet. 

"I think it's a no-brainer for me, so I'm already trying to figure out what that next step is," Lewis said.

To learn more about Motor and the incentive programs through AES, click here.

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