Testimony in support of LD 256, An Act to Add Electric Bicycles to the Electric Vehicle Rebate Program
Senator Lawrence, Representative Zeigler, distinguished members of the Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Technology. My name is Josh Caldwell. I am the Climate and Clean Energy Outreach Coordinator at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), and I am testifying today in support of LD 256, An Act to Add Electric Bicycles to the Electric Vehicle Rebate Program.
NRCM is committed to meeting the climate and clean energy goals the Maine Legislature has put in place to move our state toward a clean energy future. The transportation sector is critical to these efforts, accounting for over half of Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions. As a result Maine’s Climate Action Plan prioritizes reducing emissions from cars and trucks across the state.
E-bikes are a low-cost, low-impact transportation option, and are a promising alternative to replace short vehicle trips and commutes, save Mainers on transportation costs, and address the climate crisis at the same time.
Efficiency Maine has already done great work in transportation electrification, supporting unprecedented growth in electric vehicle adoption in recent years. Extending the program to include e-bikes would increase access to affordable clean transportation options for a greater variety of Maine residents.
Improving Transportation Access and Equity for All Mainers
Maine is an automobile-dependent state, but cars and trucks are expensive to purchase and maintain, and may not be the most appropriate transportation solution for all Mainers. Low-income Mainers see a much higher proportion of their income go toward transportation, and families of color in Maine are less likely than white families to have access to a personal vehicle. For people with mobility impairments, e-bikes are also a more accessible option than biking and walking.
Rebates are a proven tool to increase access to clean energy transportation technologies and would provide an equitable transportation solution for Maine residents. This would especially be the case if these rebates are tiered by income level to be sure they are supporting residents most in need of the rebates.
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Vehicle Miles Traveled
Maine’s Clean Transportation Roadmap clearly identifies system-wide electrification as the most important step toward meeting our climate goals and calls for parallel strategies to reduce vehicles miles traveled. These include investments in active transportation such as biking and walking. E-bikes operate at the intersection of these aims, providing a more efficient and appealing alternative to both driving and human-powered transportation.
About 75 percent of car trips taken in Maine are under ten miles and could be replaced by a ride on an e-bike. Fifty-nine percent of transportation emissions come from light-duty cars and trucks, and eighty-nine percent of Maine commuters report that they drive to work by themselves. If incentivized, e-bikes could reshape the way many Mainers conduct errands and short trips, providing climate-friendly convenience for Maine residents.
Success in Similarly Situated States
Colorado’s e-bike incentive program has proven to be massively successful in a predominantly rural and cold-climate state. In 2022, nearly 5,000 e-bike rebates were redeemed in Colorado, with half of those rebates used by income-qualified individuals. A survey of e-bike voucher users found that those who took advantage of the program travel 26 miles per week on their e-bikes, with 22 of those miles replacing car trips. The program is estimated to replace 100,000 vehicle miles per week, and 96 percent of rebate recipients surveyed reported that the rebate was a deciding factor when making the decision to purchase an e-bike.¹ Colorado’s success speaks volumes to the potential of a rebate program in Maine, and we look forward to seeing more e-bikes on our roads and bikeways.
For these reasons we urge the Committee to support the passage of this important climate bill. Thank you for your consideration, and I welcome any questions that you may have.