AUGUSTA — A 10-month program conducted by Efficiency Maine has helped 33 state governmental entities add electric vehicles to their municipal and transportation services fleets. Municipalities as far north as Lincoln and Guilford, and as far east as Bar Harbor — along with school districts and towns throughout the state — took advantage of the special offer.
Efficiency Maine launched the promotion in December 2020 with the aim to further boost EV adoption in the state. The promotion, which issued 86 rebates, closed on Aug. 31.
“After we announced the limited-time promotion, we saw that several car manufacturers were offering generous lease incentives that, when combined with Efficiency Maine’s rebates, could result in low- or no-cost leases,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of the Efficiency Maine Trust. “We chose to focus on municipal vehicles because they often have predictable duty cycles and generally don’t travel longer than the typical range for a new EV — about 200 miles per charge — in the same day.
“These EVs also can charge overnight since many of them are parked in a lot or garage,” Stoddard continued. “We were excited to see the combination of the manufacturers’ rebates and our program boosting Maine’s EV ownership. Some municipalities may decide to purchase the vehicles at the end of the lease, while others will decide to trade them in. In the latter case, those vehicles will feed the growing demand in Maine for affordable, pre-owned EVs.”
Efficiency Maine’s promotion offered special rebates to governmental entities of up to $12,000 for battery electric vehicles and $5,000 for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Many of the participating towns have simultaneously installed public chargers to serve both their municipal fleets, residents, and visitors. Some chargers were funded by Efficiency Maine grants.
Laurie Linscott, bus superintendent for Bangor’s Community Connector, manages the city’s paratransit service using two plug-in hybrid Chrysler Pacifica minivans that were modified to be wheelchair-accessible.
“These plug-in hybrid electric minivans are a great learning experience for us as we consider using fully battery electric vehicles in the future,” said Linscott. “The vans are equipped with wheelchair access that accommodates most of our riders and also have seats for other passengers. They typically travel 120 to 170 miles a day, bringing passengers to and from appointments as far as Old Town and Hampden. Most of our passengers use wheelchairs. I’d estimate that the vans are getting 84 miles per gallon using combined gasoline and electricity. If we make the decision to get fully electric vehicles, I wouldn’t hesitate to endorse that decision. They’re terrific vehicles and I would highly recommend them.”
Kara George, town manager of Thomaston, is equally enthusiastic about the town’s new 2021 Mustang Mach-E police cruiser.
“Our new EV cruiser reduces our costs for fuel and maintenance,” said George. “It perfectly fits the goals and needs we’ve outlined for our community. Thomaston continues to expand the green initiatives in our community through a number of projects. We’re converting all street lights to LEDs, installing two electric vehicle chargers for public use, and building a solar array that will provide the municipality with over 80 percent of its electricity. We also plan to install an EV charger at the police station because we believe electric cars are here now and for the future.”
Although the special promotion for municipalities has ended, Efficiency Maine recently announced it is extending its EV rebate program for all buyers for another year and estimates it has sufficient funds to provide rebates for approximately 2,500 more EV purchases. Efficiency Maine programs provide instant rebates for eligible BEVs and PHEVs at 67 participating car dealers in Maine. The standard rebate is $2,000 for a BEV and $1,000 for a PHEV. Higher rebates are available for low-income customers, governmental entities, and select nonprofits. For a limited time, Efficiency Maine is offering a promotion for businesses on the purchase of two to 10 vehicles, paying rebates of $4,500 on a BEV or $3,500 on a PHEV for the first 50 vehicles on a first-come, first-served basis. To learn more, visit https://www.efficiencymaine.com/electric-vehicle-rebates/.
The quasi-state agency also is producing a suite of educational materials to help Maine consumers overcome barriers to EVs. Mainers can find extensive information on the Efficiency Maine website about EVs, EV rebates, and EV charging. There they can also find the new guidebook on “How to Select and Install a Home Electric Vehicle Charger” and an instructional video on the different ways to pay for a charge at any public charging plug.
Efficiency Maine’s EV work also includes an initiative to install a network of universal, publicly accessible EV chargers across Maine. A first phase of this initiative developed a network of high-speed EV chargers (also called “Level 3” chargers or “DC fast chargers”) on the Maine Turnpike at the Kennebunk plazas (northbound and southbound) and the West Gardiner plaza, as well as in Jackman, Skowhegan, Farmington and North Windham. A subsequent phase is developing public high-speed EV chargers in Lewiston-Auburn, Fairfield, Newport, Bangor, Ellsworth, and Belfast.
In addition to installing these publicly accessible fast chargers, Efficiency Maine is also supporting the expansion of lower-cost, public Level 2 chargers in other strategic locations across the state. To date, it has helped fund 150 new, public plugs in Maine’s public EV charging network, which has now grown to a total of 120 DC high-speed charging plugs and 395 Level 2 “community” plugs.
To learn more about electric vehicle technology and how to maximize its benefits visit www.efficiencymaine.com/ev. Drivers can also find a charging station locator on the Efficiency Maine website or by using a variety of available smartphone apps.
Efficiency Maine Trust is the independent administrator for programs to improve the efficiency of energy use and reduce greenhouse gases in Maine. The Trust does this primarily by delivering financial incentives on the purchase of high-efficiency equipment or changes to operations that help customers save electricity, natural gas, and other fuels throughout the Maine economy. The Trust is a quasi-state agency governed by a Board of Trustees with oversight from the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Visit www.efficiencymaine.com for more information.