Dealer: Interest in electric vehicles ‘nearly nonexistent’ in Baton Rouge

    Despite the growing number of electric car purchases statewide, one area seller says few people are buying ‘green’ vehicles in the Capital Region. 

    “Interest is nearly nonexistent,” Matt McBrayer, of Royal Automotive Group, tells Daily Report. “The vehicles are a viable option, but there needs to be more interest in the car for more people to understand that.”

    The Royal Automotive Group sells two models of electric vehicles in Baton Rouge—the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and the Nissan LEAF EV. McBrayer estimates the group sold “one, maybe two” electric vehicles last year.

    While McBrayer says sales have been low in Baton Rouge, there were 613 electric vehicles sold statewide in 2018, the most recent year data is available, according to EVAdoption, which tracks such figures. That’s a 116.61% spike from the 283 sales in 2017. 

    When the group first began selling the electric Mitsubishis in 2011, McBrayer says it tried to stimulate the market. It partnered with the Towne Center to install a charging station next to the Whole Foods Market, as well as helped establish chargers at the Baton Rouge airport and LSU’s campus. There are also four chargers at one of Royal’s car dealerships, which are available to the public. 

    The idea, however, that electric vehicles need to be charged at one of these chargers is slightly outdated, according to McBrayer. Nowadays, the vehicles being produced can be charged at home, some even on a regular 160-volt outlet. 

    Statewide, there are 213 charging outlets at 91 charging stations, according to EVAdoption, which breaks down to 8.46 electric vehicles per station, the 13th worst rate in the nation. 

    In Baton Rouge, there are 18 charging stations available for public use. The chargers are mostly clustered around downtown and LSU, with additional ones at shopping centers and auto dealerships. 

    One possible deterrent to sales could be Louisiana’s gas prices, which are among the lowest in the nation. Baton Rouge’s prices, specifically, have been noted as the lowest in the nation several times. With electric vehicles costing about the same or more than the average sedan and gas not prohibitively expensive, purchasers might be less incentivized to go electric. 

    Another deterrent? None of the chargers in the city is “fast charging,” which can fully charge an electric vehicle in less than an hour, though Baton Rouge Area Foundation Executive Vice President John Spain says that can soon change. 

    According to Spain, the city-parish recently applied for funds to install fast chargers at the Water Campus. A decision, he says, is expected to be made early this year. Daily Report reached out to the city-parish but was unable to get more information about that possible funding before this morning’s deadline. 

    In 2016, BRAF and the city-parish partnered to install some 11 chargers downtown and in parking garages. A second phase was supposed to involve partnerships with shopping centers to install chargers, but when asked about it, Spain says BRAF isn’t involved with promoting the chargers, though he “would love to see businesses add” chargers themselves. 

    Transportation and Drainage Director Fred Raiford has heard developers indicate that electric vehicles are becoming popular in other places, though he says he’s not aware of how the city is trending. 

    “Is it going to take over entire infrastructure issues? I don’t know,” Raiford says. “But a lot of people at some point are going to want to use these and there will be a need to provide charging places.”

    Installing chargers shouldn’t be a city-parish responsibility though, he maintains.

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