By Annalisa Purser, communications specialist, University Marketing and Communications
Utah’s winter inversion season is here, but this year Utah will have more clean, electric cars on the road to help to improve air quality. The University of Utah’s U Drive Electric program has facilitated the sale of 92 electric and plug-in-hybrid cars in the past six weeks. Due to the popularity of the program, U Drive Electric has been extended through Nov. 30, 2016. The program is offered through a collaboration between the university, Salt Lake City and Utah Clean Energy.
U Drive Electric, now in its second round, has helped a total of 168 community members upgrade to clean-electric vehicles. The EV sales during the first round of the program accounted for 68 percent of all EV sales in the state while the program was open for enrollment. These vehicles reduce criteria air pollutant emissions by up to 99 percent when compared to a traditional gasoline vehicle and will prevent more than 600,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions in one year—a 45 percent reduction when compared to a gasoline vehicle. With almost 50 percent of Utah’s urban air pollution coming from tailpipe emissions, electric vehicles represent an important tool for improving air quality along the Wasatch Front.
U Drive Electric offers U community members and Salt Lake City community members the opportunity to purchase or lease electric and plug-in-hybrid vehicles at discounted prices. U Drive Electric includes seven participating car dealers along the Wasatch Front that are offering discounts from 3 to 25 percent off, making electric cars accessible and affordable to a much broader range of households.
“This program has been more successful than we ever imagined. By working with Salt Lake City this year, we have been able to expand participation and the positive impacts it has on our community,” said Amy Wildermuth, chief sustainability officer at the University of Utah. “The remarkable participation demonstrates the many people in our community who are committed to improving our air quality and to reducing our carbon footprint.”
The program is available to members of the U community, including faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as anyone who has been a visitor or guest at a university event. In addition, the program is available to Salt Lake City residents and individuals who regularly work, conduct business in or visit Salt Lake City.
“U Drive Electric has inspired many within the Salt Lake City community to become owners of cost-effective, clean-air vehicles,” stated Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “We enthusiastically support extending this program through November, particularly with the winter inversion season upon us and the need to get more people into cleaner vehicles. This is program complements the city’s other air quality initiatives, including adding more public EV charging stations this winter.”
To offer this incentive, the University of Utah Sustainability Office is coordinating with Salt Lake City and partnering with Utah Clean Energy, a nonprofit public interest organization that works to drive the transition to a clean energy future. This program is enabled by generous grants from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) and Patagonia Outlet of Salt Lake City.
Car dealers are able to offer a discount because the program drives targeted customer demand during a limited timeframe. To those who enroll through the program, there will be discounts on BEV (battery-electric) or PHEV (plug-in-hybrid electric) car models from BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai, Nissan and additional used car models. Discounts vary by vehicle make and model, but range between 3 to 25 percent off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.
Participating community members can sign up for the program at udriveelectric.org. Once registered, participants work directly with any of the selected dealers to purchase or to lease the electric car of their choice. Participants must sign a contract before Nov. 30, 2016, to guarantee the discount.