Senator David Woodsome, Chair
Representative Mark Dion, Chair
Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities & Technology
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 strongly support this common-sense legislation that will allow private and public entities to more easily invest in electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in Maine. Many other states have taken similar types of action to clarify regulatory treatment of charging stations for this same purpose. The approach in Senator Millet’s bill is modest and we hope, uncontroversial.
Plug-in electric vehicles, as the name implies, have batteries that can be charged by being plugged in. (They are distinguished from “hybrid” vehicles that have a battery that 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 that 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 substantially less gasoline (if any), which brings a whole range of economic and environmental benefits for Maine. Concerns about ease of charging (whether justified or not), as well as the upfront cost of the vehicle, are the two primary barriers to greater EV adoption.
Over the last two years, NRCM participated with Central Maine Power and several other organizations in two EV pilot projects. The second pilot included outreach and matching grants for EVs and EV charging infrastructure in the greater Portland area. As you may hear from CMP, the pilot was very successful at priming interest in EVs and aiding businesses—such as Hannaford and IDEXX—in investing in EV charging stations. The grant recipients, like many others in Maine and elsewhere, provide electricity for free to employees or others using the charging station. Although the cost of such electricity is surprisingly small, this model is not for everyone. This bill would allow organizations or businesses to charge for electricity from an EV charging station without being subject to unnecessarily onerous regulatory treatment as electricity suppliers.
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%). An important finding of this survey is that a substantial minority of early adopters of EVs in Maine have concerns about the range of their vehicles. In fact, it was the #1 concern of drivers prior to purchasing a vehicle (although the concern dropped significantly once they owned their vehicle). A majority of Maine EV drivers to-date have never used a charging station outside of their home, which is likely a result of Maine’s growing but still limited charging infrastructure. Until there are more charging stations in useful and visible locations, this will be a barrier to greater EV ownership. (Note that we also urge you to support LD 278, at the taxation committee, which would provide a sales tax exemption for EVs and significantly accelerate adoption.)
Other key findings of our survey 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;
- The average fuel economy reported was 88 miles per gallon;
- A plurality (34%) of drivers reported saving $100/month or more on gasoline; and
- 95% of drivers surveyed charge primarily at home (most commonly, overnight).
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 address transportation. Increasing the adoption of EVs is probably the fastest and easiest way to make a dent in transportation emissions.
More EVs will not only reduce pollution, but would significantly reduce Maine’s expensive dependence on imported oil. We urge you to pass this simple bill that will help reduce an unnecessary barrier to expanded EV charging infrastructure.