Posted by Tom Talbott
Our Valentine’s Day program began with an introduction from David Ertz of our guest speaker Jennifer Brennan, the Efficiency Maine (EM) Program Manager- Electric Vehicle Initiatives (EVI). Though no one’s fault, the program was momentarily short circuited with a few tech glitches, but engineer whiz PP Dick Hall had the capacity to find the right sequence of buttons to get us powered up.  
Jennifer asked for a show of hands – how many people in the room today drive an electric car? Shockingly, not a single one, which makes for a great audience willing to learn more about EV’s – Electric Vehicles. It also turns out that Maine is a state that has many opportunities to be an EV leader. The EVI is charged to expand the availability of the vehicles, as well as the all-important infrastructure of charging stations throughout Maine.
Some quick facts. Cars/Light duty trucks account for 53% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Maine. An average gasoline vehicle emits 10k pounds of emissions per year, compared to 6k from a hybrid, or 0 from an all-electric. Note that in terms of making electricity, Maine is not producing high amounts of GHG, since our state receives the majority of power from green/efficient sources - 29% from hydro, 23% biomass, 21% from wind, and 20% natural gas. The remaining 7% is fossil, oil, coal, and solar.
So why get amped up over an EV? The best reason -  no emissions. Maintenance costs are notably far less than gas engines. EV’s are quiet with fast acceleration – and they’re cool! Are they selling? When they first hit the ground in 2010, only 345 sold. Now there are more than 1.3 million EV’s on the road. However, in terms of annual sales, EV’s accounted for just 2.6% of all auto sales in 2019.
There is consumer resistance. Aside from a higher upfront cost, the larges current issue is “Range Anxiety”, or how far you can drive on a charge. Distances vary by models. The pricier Tesla leads the pack with a range of 240-370, but the entry level Toyota Prius Prime ekes out 25 miles and a Chevy Volt 53.  Higher values are with a Nissan Volt 150-215, or Chevy Bolt 258. Anxiety compounds because charging stations are in short supply. There is also limited signage on the highway alerting travelers where to charge batteries, and there is also a time factor. Three levels of charging include:  1) Home outlet 120v, which charges at a rate of 3-5 miles per hour. 2) Public 240v set-up, 10-20 miles per charge hour, and  3) Fast-charge stations which delivers 80% full charge in 20-30 minutes.
Fueling the EVI is a $5.1 million settlement Maine received from VW for their violations of the Clean Air Act and unfair trade practice. From this, EM received $3.5 million to administer initiatives to promote EV’s and lower emissions. This includes a comprehensive education marketing campaign, encouraging consumers to test drive an EV. Dealerships are learning better ways to position the benefits, and aim to tie in manufacturer incentives and rebates to spike sales. Currently 46 Maine dealers are conducting the Accelerator Rebate Program, where consumers are relayed the rebates at the point-of-sale, no waiting for a check.
Improving the charging infrastructure is essential to the growth of the EVI. Level 2 (240v) systems and Level 3 Fast Charge systems are being installed in priority travel corridors throughout Maine. These include six, soon to be seven, Level 3 stops along the Maine Turnpike, and twenty-three Level 2 stations in busy public locations in high-traffic cities and towns.
There was a sea of hands when it came time for Q&A, but with time running short, we could only meter a few. One expressed surprise over the high-level hydropower accounting for 29% of our electricity, but between our rivers and Canada, that is the case. Another pondered what to do with an old EV battery, when we cannot throw our AA batteries in the trash. Turns out the Lithium-ion battery will outlast the car, and can be reused to store power. The last question probed whether Efficiency Maine would at some point offer financial assistance to home owners interested in solar roof panels, noting that the ROI is 11 years. While in demand, the answer was....unsure.
(Photo L-R:  David Ertz, Jennifer Brennan and PDG Peter Johnson.)