Maine’s electric vehicle transition is a costly proposition, report says

Rapid electrification of cars and trucks in Maine is the fastest way to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and meet the state’s climate change goals, but achieving it will be a challenge. tough race, according to a new state-commissioned report.

Public funding for new incentive vehicles and charging stations is lacking an estimated figure of over $ 100 million, many drivers in Maine are unwilling or unable to afford the electric vehicles currently on the market, and Supply chain disruptions have reduced what auto dealers have available on their lots, according to the report.

The transportation sector is responsible for more than half of the state’s carbon emissions, mostly from the tailpipes of more than one million commercial and personal vehicles on national roads. Reducing this pollution is necessary to reduce emissions by 45% over the next eight years and 80% by 2050, as called for in the state’s climate action plan.

Replacing these vehicles with zero-emission models “appears to be the most important and technologically ready strategy in any mode, due to the relatively low fuel cost, high transmission efficiency and of the continued decline in battery costs, “said the Maine Clean Transportation Roadmap, a report commissioned by Governor Janet Mills and released last week by Cadmus Group, a consulting firm in Waltham, Massachusetts.

A range of subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles, especially for low- and middle-income households, the payment of new public charging stations and the obligation for car dealers to sell a growing number of zero-emission vehicles in the state over the next decade are part of its recommendations. .

No immediate policy or legislative changes emerged from the report, said Anthony Ronzio, deputy director of the governor’s office for policy innovation and the future.

“The consultant’s work, with input from the public and industry stakeholders, produced an in-depth, data-driven analysis of the options as well as an assessment of the various efforts underway in other states,” he said. Ronzio said in an email. “The administration reviews and evaluates the consultant’s recommendations and determines which, if any, are appropriate for Maine. The administration has not proposed any action to date on the basis of the report. “

AN AGGRESSIVE OBJECTIVE

Getting more electric vehicles on the Maine highway is the main focus of the report, but it recommends other ways to reduce the number of drivers. More public transit, improved bike paths, walking paths and sidewalks, community amenities that make it easier to get out of the car at home, and expanded telecommuting options all help reduce greenhouse gases.

But the massive expansion of zero-emission vehicles on Maine’s roads remains the clearest way to meet the state’s ambitious climate goals, according to the report.

“It’s going to be a really big goal and it won’t be easy, but I think it’s doable,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine, an agency that offers discounts for electric cars and is responsible for expansion. the state vehicle charging network.

Right now, the general new vehicle market is struggling with shortages of microchips and other components, which is slowing the adoption of fully electric cars, but it will pass, he said.

The number of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars registered in Maine has increased 90% in the past two years to nearly 5,780 vehicles, according to the report. Charging stations rose 60% to 265 statewide during the same period. Zero-emission vehicles made up about 0.5% of regular passenger vehicles in Maine last year.

About 980 electric vehicles were sold in Maine in 2020, or about 1.5% of the total light vehicles sold and slightly below the national average.

Maine is expected to have more than 40,000 electric cars on the roads over the next three years and more than 200,000 by 2030, according to Maine Won’t Wait, the state’s climate action plan. But right now, electric vehicles lack the diversity that consumers in Maine want, like SUVs and pickup trucks. The state’s top-selling vehicles are the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, and GMC Sierra, vehicles that are not widely available in electric versions. Seven percent of electric vehicles on the market will be pickup trucks by 2024 if automakers meet their targets, the report adds.

“It’s frustrating right now because we were starting to gain momentum and starting to see real growth in the electric vehicle market in Maine,” Stoddard said. “It’s all just slowing down to an icy pace right now – we just have to be patient. We will get back on track and do our best.

NEEDED TEN MILLION MILLIONS

According to the report’s analysis, it would take tens of millions of dollars more than what is currently available to make the kinds of investments needed in electric vehicle charging and incentives.

Maine has about $ 27 million, a combination of money from the state’s stimulus and jobs plan and federal infrastructure bill, to expand public charging stations through 2026. .

Efficiency Maine has about $ 3.8 million for rebates on electric vehicles, which are expected to be spent by next June, and $ 1.3 million for rebates for low-income people, the report says. . People who buy a new battery electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle can get $ 1,000 to $ 5,000, depending on the vehicle and their income.

Expanding the program and investing in public charging to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles could cost between $ 25 million and $ 43.7 million per year, according to the report. These expenses do not include subsidies for commercial electric vehicles, charging stations for apartment buildings, or a “money for the fool” incentive program for more fuel-efficient vehicles recommended by the report.

Possible funding sources include $ 2.5 billion in competitive federal grants for the expansion of electric vehicles in the Federal Infrastructure Bill. But the state could also consider increasing the tax on gasoline or instituting a tax on “vehicle-miles traveled”, proposals that have proved politically unpopular, or establishing a standard on clean fuels. and other revenue models, the report suggests.

The cost analysis in the report is an estimate that could drop significantly, said Barry Woods, director of electric vehicle innovation at ReVision Energy, a solar energy company. As more vehicles appear on the road, recharging will attract private investment and people will spend more time recharging them at home, he said.

“I don’t think anyone in the industry speaks with a high degree of confidence about exactly what the need will be once the plug-in population grows,” said Woods. “I think we currently have a fairly large amount of identified funding. In reality, as there are more vehicles, the ability to attract private investment will become easier. “

CHALLENGES AHEAD

The city of Portland plans to install four fast-charging stations and 44 smaller charging stations in dense residential neighborhoods next year. People want to charge their cars at home overnight, but it’s difficult if you live on the third floor of a building without a garage or dedicated parking space.

“Our goal is to create neighborhood charging centers,” said Troy Moon, Portland’s director of sustainability. “So that there can be infrastructure within walking distance of a large number of condos or apartments.”

The obligation to sell electric vehicles, as well as an expanded infrastructure, is another recommendation of the report. He suggests that Maine follow California’s lead and demand that an increasing share of vehicles sold in the state be zero-emission, reaching 100 percent of all new passenger vehicles by 2035.

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection is considering a similar regulations for commercial trucks. According to the rule, between 5 and 9% of trucks sold in Maine, depending on their size, are expected to be zero emissions by 2024, rising to 55 to 75% of sales by 2035.

This proposal is opposed by a range of pro-business groups, including the Maine Motor Transport Association, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and other trade groups.

In a letter to regulators in November, the group said the regulations had not been scrutinized, may not adapt to Maine’s economy and would have unintended consequences for businesses in the state.

“For these reasons, we support market-driven choices for voluntary commercial adoption of zero-emission vehicles where applications warrant it, not an arbitrary sales threshold that will impact the equipment available in Maine and available to Maine businesses whether it is planned or not, “he added. the group said. “After all, if the cost of owning zero emission vehicles is truly as rosy as the picture is painted, then truck owners will flock to the technology once the infrastructure investments are made and the technology proves. its efficiency.”


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