When we called Bill Yeo to talk about the electronic car charging station his employer, L.L. Bean, had just installed, he seemed more cheerful than your average person talking to a reporter (in our years of experience). It turned out he’d gotten word that the Tesla he ordered would be delivered that very day. “There is no dealer in Maine. So they show up with it on a flatbed and drop it at your house.” He’s been waiting two years for it. No wonder he was happy. We talked EVs (that’s the lingo for electronic vehicles, in case you missed it), solar power and Yeo’s work as the retail manager for the Outdoor Discovery School at Bean’s.

PLUGGED IN: According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which sponsors a number of promotional events for electric cars in September, L.L. Bean’s new installation is the largest electric car charging station in the state. (Yeo said Tesla recently added two sets of eight charging stations on either side of I-95 in Kennebunk, but those are Tesla-only, meaning drivers of vehicles like the Nissan Leaf can’t use them.) L.L. Bean has eight charging stations for Teslas and eight more conventional chargers for all the other types of electric vehicles. Both the Tesla and conventional chargers are a lot faster than you’d get at your house with a 120 volt. Looking for the place to plug in? From Main Street, head down Justins Way, across from Jameson’s Tavern and on the side of the building where you pick up big parcels.)

CHARGE IT: Given that Yeo is enough of a Tesla enthusiast to have waited two years for the car, we wanted to know if he’d pushed for the installation. Yeo said he had nothing to do with it. “Isn’t that funny? I was surprised. I had been planning on doing this, but our facilities team was already on it.” Tesla had reached out to the outdoors retailer. “They are trying to build up their infrastructure. They have over 11,000 charging stations. There is no other car company in the world that has that many. Everyone is going to be playing catch up with them over the next few years.”

DELIVERY DELAY: “They finally came out with one that is a little more affordable. I said, ‘I am going to get on top of that. It is still expensive, but I have been waiting to get an EV for years and years. I have been living off the grid for almost 28 years now.” He built his own home, using post and beam construction and wood from his lot in Durham. He also has rigged up several solar power systems over the years, including a new one for a charging system. “They are five times cheaper than they were. Solar has come way down. And your payback is a lot quicker.” The price isn’t the only thing that’s changed, he said. Attitudes toward his off-the-grid lifestyle have as well. “Everyone used to chuckle, ‘What are you doing living off solar power?’ ” Now it’s trendy. “In the future you are going to see a lot of homes being independent.”

INDEPENDENCE DAY: The only piece of his home life that depended on fossil fuels has been his car, an “old beater wagon.” It needs to go. “I want to charge my vehicle off the sun and be completely independent.” In April 2016, Tesla announced a new model of electric car, and Yeo was one of many people nationwide who put down a $1,000 deposit and joined a waiting list. “Right now there is a huge backlog. They are having a lot of trouble just delivering.”

UNDERSTATEMENT: Sustainability is “kind of my passion,” Yeo said. His undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Maine is in environmental science, and he also has an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University with a concentration in sustainability and environmental compliance. “I took advantage of Bean’s tuition reimbursement program.” He’s been at Bean’s over 30 years. “It’s a great place to work.” Is he close to the longest-employed member of the staff? “There are at least two people who have been here over 40 years.”

GOOD GIG: As the retail manager of the Outdoor Discovery School, Yeo oversees clinics, demonstrations and lecture series on the Freeport campus. Keep an eye on that last item. Weekly lectures given by professors, authors and scientist types start in January “when everybody is getting cabin fever.” “And I lead all of our (local) conservation projects.” That might mean putting together beach and island cleanup crews and joining forces with local land trusts, like Maine Island Trails Association or the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. “We did two trips to Muscongus Bay this summer.” He oversees groups that are building bridges across bogs and new trails. “I have one of the best jobs at the company.”

LEED LEADER: Yeo is also a LEED AP, which stands for accredited professional. In other words, he has been certified to help get new construction up to LEED environmental standards. “I wouldn’t be the one that says ‘Yes, you pass,’ I would be the one that takes you to the point of meeting all LEED standards.” He doesn’t work in this field, but got accredited with an eye to the future. “Someday I might transition into it.” But for now, he’s not going anywhere. Unless it’s on an adventure. And we’re not talking about day hikes up Cadillac Mountain.

CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN: For starters, he’s climbed Everest. He’s skied across the Arctic, ridden his bike across Africa and “the whole Amazon basin.” Everest aside, his adventures tend to be more about challenges that take him to beautiful places, rather than the tallest or hardest peaks. “Five years ago, I switched to mountain biking expeditions.” He uses Google Earth to study routes on remote mountain ranges in Peru, Bolivia and in the Himalayas, picking out routes along ancient footpaths to take with his regular cycling companion, his brother. “We found these old trekking routes that were over 1,000 years old.” And well suited to fat-tire bikes. “When we rode across Africa, we didn’t have decent map and had no idea where we were going. Now we have so much technology as an assist.”

WORTH THE WAIT? Naturally, we had to check in the next day. Did the Tesla arrive as promised? Yes it did: “At 8:30 last night under the cover of darkness, an 18-wheeler full of Teslas pulled up to the end of my driveway, and a tired but friendly guy rolled it off the back. It looked more beautiful than I could have imagined and my wife and daughter and I hopped in and silently drove down our quarter-mile driveway to our house. It was definitely worth the wait!! This morning I was excited to get the first glimpse of it once the sun came up, looked out the window, it wasn’t a dream!!”

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MaryPols

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