Rainbow Bicycle owner John Grenier said Maine has been a bit slow to catch on to the use of electric-assisted bicycles, but all of the bike shops he knows of are now taking part. “We all jumped on at the same time,” he said. Resentment toward electric bikes has dissipated over the past couple of years, he added. Grenier said women 50 or older make up his largest e-bike customer base. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file

To boost the number of Mainers giving electric bicycles a chance, lawmakers are weighing a plan to add them to Efficiency Maine’s rebate program.

Douglas Nielsen of Harpswell told a legislative panel Tuesday the move would be “yet another small step” toward a big goal of protecting “the treasured environment of our state.”

Besides, he said, since his wife got an e-bike several years ago “she effortlessly passes me on the hills” as he struggles with his standard touring bicycle.

“This bill may allow me to catch up to her,” Nielsen said.

It isn’t clear how much it would cost to add a rebate program for e-bikes, but Efficiency Maine’s program currently provides at least $500 for eligible electric vehicles.

The Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee has yet to discuss the proposal from state Sen. Mattie Daughtry, a Brunswick Democrat. To become law, it would need the support of the House, Senate and Gov. Janet Mills.


Cashel Stewart, South Portland’s sustainable transportation coordinator, told the panel that his city has offered rebates of $300 for e-bikes and $500 for electric cargo bikes since September. It has given out 25 rebates so far, Stewart said.

“Bicycling is critical to Maine meeting its climate action goals,” Stewart told legislators, adding that “electric bicycle technology is particularly transformative and inclusive, and that an electric bicycle incentive program is the best way to jump-start a vibrant bicycle culture here in Maine.”

E-bikes have been growing in popularity because they make it easier for people to traverse long and hilly routes that are a challenge for traditional bikes, especially with an aging population chock full of aching knees.

Michael Stoddard, executive director of the Efficiency Maine Trust, said it “understands that there is potential for e-bikes to displace the use of cars in a way that will reduce carbon emissions and may be cost-effective.”

But, he told the committee, it all depends on the circumstances of how a particular bike is used.

“For example, it would save little or no energy or carbon if an e-bike simply displaces another bicycle, or a ride on a transit or school bus,” he said.


Stoddard also said legislators need to consider a few complications, including how to ensure e-bikes purchased with a rebate would remain in Maine and not carried off to another state.

Jacob Stern, vice chairman of the Sierra Club’s Maine chapter, said that “e-bikes produce zero on-site carbon emissions and are therefore a climate-friendly transportation option.”

He said the major benefit of e-bikes is they “allow riders to easily travel greater distances over hillier terrain than with a regular bicycle” at speeds up to 28 miles per hour.

Emma Brown of Portland said she could “wax poetic on the joys and merits of riding a bicycle, but focused her testimony instead on what she called “a matter of equity for Mainers who need affordable transit options.”

“Owning a car is incredibly expensive,” Brown said, while an e-bike can cost less than $500 annually to maintain and use, a fraction of the cost of a car.

“That means that folks can keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets by choosing to ride a bike, while also reducing congestion and wear-and-tear on our roads, as well as helping to mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing fossil fuel consumption,” Brown said.

“If Maine is serious about protecting its natural resources to continue to be the Vacationland we know and love,” she said, “then marking electric bicycles as eligible for electric vehicle rebates is a no-brainer.”

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