Senator Earle McCormick, Chair
Representative Adam Good, Chair
Joint Standing Committee on Taxation
My name is Dylan Voorhees and I am the Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Thank you for allowing us to present this testimony. We support a tax credit or exemption specifically for plug-in electric vehicles (EVs), which would be a subset of “fuel-efficient” vehicles. We believe the case for an EV tax exemption is particularly strong, because these vehicles have an especially large public benefit and, while readily available, face specific barriers for adoption. For reference, some language defining EVs is attached, from legislation introduced in the previous session.
Plug-in electric vehicles, as the name implies, have batteries which can be charged by being plugged in. (They are distinguished from “hybrid” vehicles that have a battery which is only charged internally from the gasoline engine and the motion of the car.) Beyond that commonality, there are many variations of plug-in EVs available (and more coming), ranging from some all-electric models, to those that have substantial gasoline tanks that power a traditional engine when the battery is used up.
It is the use of external charging which provides the largest benefit, but also a key barrier for EV adoption. EVs use electricity from the grid for all or some of their energy, and therefore use substantial less gasoline (if any), which brings a whole range of economic and environmental benefits for Maine. EVs generally must be charged more frequently than the average person fuels their gasoline-powered car. The upfront cost of the vehicle, as well as concerns about charging (whether justified or not) are the two primary barriers to greater EV adoption.
Attached to our testimony are the results of the first survey of all registered EV owners in Maine, completed last fall. Using data from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, we surveyed the nearly 600 registered owners by mail and received a very high response rate (roughly 45%). There are a number of key findings that may be of interest to the committee:
• EV owners universally like their vehicles and would recommend them to a friend, family member or colleague;
• EV owners are located all across the state, including the district of every member of the Taxation committee except Senator Davis (as of six months ago);
• The average fuel economy reported was 88 miles per gallon;
• A plurality (34%) of drivers reported saving $100/month or more on gasoline;
• 95% of drivers charge primarily at home (most commonly, overnight); and
• The greatest concern drivers had was the upfront cost of an EV.
NRCM supports policies to accelerate the adoption of EVs because of their clear environmental benefits. When counting the pollution emitted by charging from our electric grid, a typical EV emits CO2—the primary cause of climate change—equivalent to a gasoline-powered car that gets 100 miles per gallon. As our electric grid shifts further toward cleaner sources, which is happening under current policies, this will even improve further.
Climate change is a real and present threat to Maine’s economy, environment, public health and traditional values. This is true whether you are from a coastal community that faces rising seas and more extreme storms, or an inland community grappling with explosive tick populations that carry Lyme Disease and are afflicting moose populations. Transportation emissions are the largest source of climate changing pollution in Maine. If we are to do our part to reduce the severity of climate change affecting our state, we must make address transportation. Increasing the adoption of EVs is probably the fastest and easiest way to make a dent on transportation emissions.
Like many other states, Maine has experience using tax policy to accelerate adoption of cleaner vehicles. For several years Maine offered a tax credit to help lower the cost of hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius. At the time, these high-efficiency gasoline-powered cars seemed very novel: they carried a big battery and consumers were uncertain about their performance. Maine’s hybrid tax credit helped overcome initial barriers and helped spur their adoption. The credit was then properly phased out. It no longer exists and it clearly isn’t needed, as the Prius (the non-plug in version) is among the most popular models of new cars in Maine.
More EVs will not only reduce pollution, but would significantly reduce Maine’s expensive dependence on imported oil. Unlike Maine’s heating oil use, which has declined significantly through efficiency and fuel-switching, our gasoline consumption has not changed in 20 years.
A tax exemption (or credit) for EVs would help accelerate adoption of these beneficial vehicles. Thank you.