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Anya Fetcher is the state director for Environment Maine.
If you’ve spent extensive time outside exploring Maine’s abundant natural beauty in the last year, you’re in good company. Attendance at Maine’s state parks broke records in 2020, and 2021 has already been another banner year for Maine campgrounds.
Our state parks are beautiful places that remind us about the things worth living for: open scenery, fresh air, vibrant wildlife and a connection to nature. And for those of us working at home from a desk or a couch, it’s a place to stave off cabin fever and lower back pain.
While our parks offer so much, one important thing is missing: electric vehicle chargers. A lack of this important infrastructure means that most everyone at the park seeking green views and fresh air have to use polluting fossil fuels to get there. It’s time to change that. We need to be able to recharge our cars where we recharge our souls.
Why is this so vital? The transportation sector is the source of more than half of Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions, meaning the switch to electric vehicles is critical to protecting public health and the environment from global warming pollution. Overall, of course, we need to reduce the number of cars on the road and invest in smart, multimodal transportation options. However, when we must travel by car, those trips should be powered by clean renewable electricity.
With advancements in technology, expanding incentives and rebate programs, and new national goals for electric vehicle sales from the Biden administration, the market for electric vehicles is charging up fast. Today, more than 1 million electric cars are on America’s roads.
But in Maine, electric vehicles account for fewer than 1 percent of registered vehicles.
Gov. Janet Mills has recognized how critical transforming transportation is to fighting climate change and, based on recommendations from the Maine Climate Council, aims to get 219,000 electric vehicles on the road by the end of the decade. But in the nation’s most rural state, battery range is a major concern for anyone looking to go electric. If we have any hope of reaching that goal, our state needs to rapidly create the charging infrastructure necessary to support the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
Maine state parks are a great place to start. They are not accessible by public transportation, so most of us use our gas-powered cars to get there. They’re also one of the few places besides your home or workplace that you’d park for a few hours — an ideal amount of time to charge up your car for the drive home. And when you’re driving two or more hours to rural parts of the state, knowing that there’s a charging station at your destination could eliminate potential range anxiety.
As for funding, we know that some of Maine’s coffers are emptier than usual because of COVID-19. To solve that problem, private companies should step up and sponsor electric vehicle chargers in our state parks. Already, BMW of North America donated 100 electric car chargers to the national parks between 2017 and 2019.
Maine is jam-packed with some of Mother Nature’s best spots. For each of us, this bounty should be a major motivation for addressing climate change. It should be easy for people to travel to their favorite places with zero emissions and zero anxiety. Adding electric vehicle infrastructure to our great outdoors is an excellent start to making it happen.