by Nathan Strout
Times Record news story
FREEPORT — L.L. Bean’s retail campus in Freeport is now home to Maine’s largest electric vehicle charging station after adding eight Level II chargers over the summer.
The addition gives Midcoast motorists and tourists another public option to charge up in a state where public charging stations can be hard to come by, forcing advanced trip planning.
The company already had installed eight Tesla chargers over the winter, so the latest installation doubled the number of chargers in the Trout parking lot behind L.L. Bean’s flagship store to 16.
“L.L. was a real person, and he was a big time outdoor person and a conservationist, and would love the fact that we’re doing something that would help to protect the environment,” said L.L. Bean President and CEO Stephen Smith, referencing the company’s founder Leon Leonwood Bean, at a ceremony on Friday. “He was also an amazing entrepreneur, coming up with the boot and several other products, and I think he would have been blown away knowing that electric vehicles are alive and well and are a reality.”
The 16 outlets are available to the public. Although the Tesla chargers are built specifically for Tesla vehicles, the Level II chargers work for most other electric vehicles.
“We hope this charging station helps show our [dedication] for curbing emissions and helping the environment,” added Smith.
The new station adds to a growing number of outlets in the state serving a growing number of electric vehicle owners.
According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, there are about 1,300 registered electric vehicle owners in Maine, about double the number from 2014.
“More Mainers are choosing electric cars as an increasing number of them are available to meet the needs of Maine drivers,” said Dylan Voorhees, NRCM Clean Energy Director, in a press release. “The survey shows that Mainers who drive electric are enthusiastic about their cars and their driving experience. Electric car drivers are pumped, and the more people hear about that, the more Mainers will want to drive electric. It’s great to see Maine drivers embracing the technology.”
Earlier this month, NRCM released results of a survey of Maine electric vehicle owners, which showed the top two reasons people chose to buy electric vehicles were to reduce air pollution and to save money on gas. But that survey also showed the owners were worried that there weren’t enough public charging stations available in the state.
CHARGING STATIONS HARD TO COME BY
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, Maine has 252 public charging outlets across 132 stations. Most of those stations are located along the more populous coastal areas, with a dozen sprinkled through more rural communities such as Greenville and Millinocket. Prior to L.L. Bean doubling its outlets, it was tied with four other locations with eight outlets each — both the northbound and southbound Kennebunk Service Plazas, a Ruby Tuesday in Brewer and the Marketplace in Augusta.
Brunswick resident Joseph Bane, who drives a Chevrolet Bolt EV, said his interest in new technologies prompted him to start driving an electric vehicle.
“I thought it was really unique and interesting,” said Bane. “There’s not really much like it on the road.”
After driving the vehicle for a little over a year, Bane said that he personally hasn’t had any problems with finding a place to charge his car.
“Actually, there are plenty of places to charge now,” he said. “I use an app on my phone called PlugShare, and you can actually plan your route and hit up charging stations on the way.”
In the rare situation where a charging station is not readily available or convenient, he can use an adapter to charge the vehicle with a regular outlet. And while severe heat or cold can have a limited impact on the electric vehicles’ range, Bane said it wasn’t a major issue.
As outlets continue to be added in Maine at L.L. Bean and elsewhere, what few concerns drivers may have about finding a convenient place to charge their vehicles will fade away.