Maine is rural, with a few city centers and the rest of the population dispersed over a large area; it really keeps us driving. The people of Maine spend roughly $10 billion a year to keep their 1.1 million cars operating. This wouldn’t be so bad if we made some of the cars here, or if we produced some of the fuel for them here; however, we don’t. As a result, roughly 85 percent of our transportation costs, including the cost of fossil fuels, is lost from Maine’s economy. That accounts for more than $8 billion — or more than double the entire annual state government budget.

In Waterville alone, there are about 7,200 private automobiles registered. Using a recent estimate from AAA of roughly $8,700 per year for the cost of owning and operating an automobile, that means the people of Waterville spend around $65 million a year keeping their private cars on the road. Of that amount, about $55 million leaves the area, which is more than the entire city budget.  

As if economic concerns weren’t enough, the fossil fuels that keep our vehicles in motion produce over half of Maine’s carbon dioxide emissions, and our dependence on them makes us vulnerable to price volatility and international instability. One way to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and keep more of our money in our local economy is to transition our transportation to electric vehicles, which we can power using Maine’s clean, renewable power sources: solar, wind and water, all of which can generate electricity.

Maine’s electric vehicle initiatives are beginning to gain momentum. Maine already generates 60 percent of our electricity from renewables, and we have the lowest electricity costs in New England.

The country of Norway leads the way with 46 percent of new cars sold in 2017 being electric. Tesla and several competitors have fully electric semi-tractor trailer trucks. In his book “Clean Disruptions,” Stanford professor and technology visionary Tony Seba predicts that most new vehicles sold globally by 2030 will be electric. In his March column in this newspaper, “Help the Economy and the Climate,” Alan Caron agrees and states, “By the end of next year, 10 new electric SUVs will come onto the market.”

It’s clear that electric vehicles are the future.

Electric vehicles are quiet, accelerate better than a gasoline engine, and emit no pollution. They have half the lifetime operating costs of a gasoline engine.

Consider the expense saved by not needing tuneups, exhaust system replacement, oil changes, cooling system repairs, and even brake jobs. There are reports of electric vehicle owners who spent less than a $100 on maintenance over tens of thousands of miles. Electric vehicles are also 90 percent efficient, compared with the 20 percent efficiency of a typical internal combustion engine vehicle. Electricity cost of driving an electric vehicle translates to the equivalent of gasoline at $1.35 per gallon.

One often mentioned concern about this new form of transportation is their range. Electric vehicles now average 90 to 300 miles per charge, and the range is increasing every year. There are over 50,000 charging locations in the United States (most with several charging units per station), including dozens in Maine. Portland alone has 51 EV locations. You can check the locations of charging stations at  chargehub.com.

In a recent announcement, Gov. Janet Mills and Efficiency Maine indicated, “Maine will provide $5.1 million in subsidies to encourage residents and companies to buy electric vehicles. The state also will add at least 50 public vehicle charging stations as part of the initiative.” Hopefully these incentives encourage people to buy an electric vehicle.

Sustain Mid Maine Coalition’s Education and Community Outreach Team is hosting its inaugural Drive Electric Earth Day, where we will showcase the availability of various electric vehicles.  Thanks to Central Maine Motors, on display will be the 100 percent electric Chevy Bolt; a Chevy Volt, a hybrid; a Chrysler Pacifica, a hybrid minivan; and a Toyota Prius, also a hybrid.  

Other electric vehicles will be available for viewing as well. Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet and ask questions of a representative from Central Maine Motors as well as EV owners. And check out the EV charging stations at while you are there.

The event will be at Thomas College (180 West River Road, Waterville) on April 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the south end of campus by the soccer and field hockey fields.  

Drive Electric Earth Day is sponsored by Sustain Mid Maine Coalition, Central Maine Motors, Thomas College Club Green and Toward a Sustainable Society class at Thomas College, InSource Renewables, ReVision Energy, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine.  

Members of Sustain Mid Maine Coalition’s Education and Community Outreach Team compiled this article from a variety of sources. Bill Basford, Steve Kahl and Linda Woods live in Waterville. Bonnie Sammons lives in Belgrade. If you would like to learn more about electric vehicles, contact Woods at [email protected]

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