Portland, Maine: A Small City With Big Ambitions To Go Green

Portland, Maine has recently concluded a research study into the possibility of placing public electric vehicle (EV) chargers throughout the city. One of the largest problems unearthed by the Electric Vehicle Feasibility Study is that the State of Maine does not have many EVs, and car companies are not will to ship EVs to car dealerships within the state.

When one thinks of Maine often the first image to come to mind is a pine tree. Maine is known for its natural beauty, rocky coast, ski resorts, and succulent lobster. Overall, Maine is very rural with a small population — the most populated city in Maine is the coastal city of Portland with a city population of 64,000.

Small population aside, the people of Maine are for the most part very environmentally friendly. It is understood that the natural beauty of Maine is a draw to people from out of state and that the tourist industry creates a major bank roll for Maine’s population – the state is known as “Vacationland” after all. Given the state’s pro-environmental stance, it would seem that the people would make for perfect adopters of EVs. Thus the federally funded Electric Vehicle Feasibility Study in Maine was conducted with the focus on placing public EV chargers in the Greater Portland Area.

Electric Vehicle Feasibility Study in Maine

The idea of the study was to gather up experts in the EV field and see what was going on. When will the cars be coming to Maine? What are the costs and details surrounding the public chargers? What permits are needed? Jennifer Puser from the Transit and Energy Planner and Maine Clean Communities headed the study and research group. The full study has been released and can viewed HERE and the results of the study were very interesting. Ms. Puser said,

Not much has gone on here in the state with electric vehicles since the ‘90s. The manufacturers have been slow to come to Maine in this new kind of market. For EVs, we are not a target market like California and Texas. Even Massachusetts has a lot more going on than we have.

One of the major issues for the State of Maine is a lack of funding to pursue EV related infrastructural overhauls. To get the public chargers in Maine the state needs funding. Massachusetts has a limited amount of public EV chargers, about 15 to 20, but those were paid for through American Reinvestment Act, not from state funds. Also, the need must be there. If a public charging system is to be put in place people need to be using it. Ms. Puser explained,

There aren’t really cars out there being driven and there is no charging infrastructure in place. In Maine the findings of the study were limited, there is not a lot going on. There are a few people who are interested, the dealers are starting to get the cars in, and one of the utilities in Maine, Central Maine Power, have three pilot programs going on with EVs.

In other words, currently there is no need for public charging station is Maine. In fact Maine car dealerships just started getting the Chevy Volt on lots in the beginning of November 2011. One of the hopes for the City of Portland is that by having public EV chargers set up and ready to go in the city the people of Maine and Portland will be more enticed to buy the EVs. Survey data supports this theory:

Currently, the Federal Government offers tax incentives on the purchase of a Plug-in Hybrid or Electric Vehicle of up to $7,500.  At this time, Maine does not offer any incentives at the state level, although many other states do.  Please answer the following three questions related to this background information.   Would you…

 

Question

Yes

Resp. / %

No

Resp. / %

Not Sure

Resp. / %

Total

Responses

1. Would you be willing to purchase a Plug-in Hybrid or Electric Vehicle without a state tax incentive?

67 / 60%

13 / 12%

32 / 29%

112

2. Would you support the passage of state legislation implementing a financial incentive or tax credit for the purchase of a Plug-in Hybrid or Electric Vehicle?

88 / 79%

12 / 11%

11 / 10%

111

3. Would you support the passage of state legislation implementing a financial incentive or tax credit for the development of public charging stations?

85 / 76%

11 / 10%

16 / 14%

112

 

Question 10 consisted of a series of three questions relating to state tax credits and tax incentives and Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicles.  Responses to all three questions were very similar.

The first question asked respondents if they would be willing to purchase a Plug-in Hybrid or Electric Vehicle without a state tax incentive.  The majority of respondents indicate they would be willing to purchase such a vehicle without a tax incentive (60%).

The second question asked respondents if they would support passage of state legislation that implements a financial incentive or tax credit for the purchase of Plug-in Hybrids or Electric Vehicles.  Respondents indicate, overwhelmingly, that they would support such legislation (79%).

The third question asked respondents if they would support passage of state legislation that implements a financial incentive or tax credit for the development of public charging stations.  Respondents indicate they are largely supportive of such legislation (76%).

While these results are encouraging, it should be noted that this survey was deliberately sent to respondents identified as “early adopters” and may not reflect the views of the general public.

From The Electric Vehicle Feasibility Study in Maine, page 28 – 29.

The study was federally funded by Department of Energy and in accordance with President Obama’s called for one million plug-in vehicles to hit America’s streets by 2015.

Continued on Page 2

 

Andrew Meggison

Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor's Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master's Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison