The governor of Vermont believes he’s the nation’s first governor to travel primarily in an all-electric vehicle.
Phil Scott, a Republican, said he hopes the move sends a message that the future of automobile transportation is electric — as a way to cut carbon and address climate change.
"I hope this sends the message that we walk the talk," Gov. Scott said Wednesday, as he joined the Vermont State Police Executive Protection Unit in picking up a new Ford F-150 Lightning from Twin State Ford in St. Johnsbury.
Scott is usually a passenger in the vehicle, with a Vermont State Trooper doing the driving. However, the Republican himself took the unit’s new lead vehicle out for a spin Wednesday.
"It’s so quiet," the governor marveled as he drove through St. Johnsbury, with a video journalist from NECN & NBC10 Boston along for the ride.
The office of Gov. Scott said it believes Vermont is now the first state in the country whose governor travels primarily in an all-electric vehicle.
"It’s amazing, it really is," the governor said of the roughly $90,000 pickup truck, which will replace a gasoline-fueled SUV.
Scott noted he was impressed with the Lightning’s torque.
The troopers will keep the former SUV for certain long drives, the governor noted. For most in-state travel, though, the electric pickup will serve as the governor’s official vehicle.
Vermont is spending millions on expanding its EV charging station network near parks, ski areas, along highways, and in other spots. Additionally, incentives are in place for consumer EV purchases, based on income levels.
Electric buses and other state fleet vehicles, even an electric motorcycle from the DMV which NECN & NBC10 Boston covered earlier this year, are also becoming more common.
"In the simplest of terms, the Agency of Transportation is committed to demonstrating that electric vehicles are and will continue to be the norm," said Joe Flynn, who leads the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
The administration acknowledged such a big shift will take time and some getting used to. On the individual level in the governor’s office, trip planning now has to take into account vehicle range and locations of those chargers.
"We need to all talk amongst ourselves about the good, and maybe some of the challenging aspects of going electric, so we can learn from this," the governor said of the new vehicle.
More broadly, future state budgets are going to have to wrestle with declines in funds from the gas tax, he noted in response to a reporter’s question.
Still, Scott insists that since the transportation sector is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, we have to think differently about what and how we drive — to combat climate change.
The first governor to go electric for his official state vehicle said the nation’s governors have a role in leading the way.
"We may be the first but we’re certainly not going to be the last," Scott said about his team’s embrace of the EV.
Vermont Democrats’ presumptive nominee to challenge Gov. Scott in November reacted Wednesday to the arrival of the new electric truck.
Brenda Siegel, a policy consultant and advocate from Windham County, said she would also use the all-electric vehicle for most official travel as governor. The Democrat is promising bold climate change policies.
"We should expand access to electric vehicles," Siegel told NECN & NBC10 Boston. "But that cannot be where we stop. Because it’s not going to happen one electric vehicle at a time. It’s going to happen because we increase in-state renewable energy, because we ensure that we’re expanding our public transportation options. Because we ensure that we’re supporting our small farms to transition to carbon sequestration and requiring our larger farms to do the same."
Siegel, whose name is the only one on Democrats’ ballots for the Vermont primary on August 9, said as governor, she would center climate change as a high-level focus of her administration.
Gov. Scott, by the way, is a part-time racecar driver at Thunder Road in Barre. He predicted that one day, more and more racetracks will feature electric vehicles competing, too.