New England, particularly northern New England states like Maine, has been late to the party called “electric vehicles”. As a native New Englander, I can think of many reasons for this tentativeness. We tend to be cautious, wary of new ideas. Given our economy we aren’t prone to fads. We just don’t throw money at a product because it enhances our status. It has to prove itself. EVs are still considered new. They cost a bit more, up front. We can’t determine whether they are a real, or something worth serious interest. The media doesn’t help much in offering objective analysis (probably the case for media anywhere nowadays). We have concerns over cold-weather impacts on their batteries. We have concerns about their range. We just don’t see many of them in the wild so we don’t’ personally know many people who drive them. We wonder how we’re supposed to keep them charged- we don’t see much public charging station infrastructure. In truth, these are all reasonable concerns. However, once any new technology proves itself here, we become true believers and it becomes part of our lives. Think about how the Suburu brand has captured New Englander’s loyalty. Love- it’s what makes a Suburu, a Suburu.
Last week was a watershed moment in Maine’s journey toward transportation electrification. We convened a large group of energized stakeholders from all walks interested in putting more cars on the road. The group included our largest electric utilities (Central Maine Power, Emera Maine), public health folks (American Lung Association of the Northeast), large employers (Delhaize/Hannaford), Maine Innkeepers Association, Green Campuses, local governments, including Portland and South Portland, and, perhaps most importantly, the Governor’s Energy Office and critical state agencies interested in growing opportunities to electrify Maine’s major travel corridors. These are folks who drive EVs, who have a specific interest in their benefits, who see the potential for transforming Maine’s economy, environment and communities by weaning us off oil.
We will be focusing on impactful projects that raise visibility and consumer deployment of this technology. In particular, we want to grow workplace charging, create charging opportunities for tourists and commercial businesses, and assist utilities in pilot projects and outreach. By keeping the emphasis on projects, not policy, we want to thread the political needle and leverage private investment as much as we can to show this technology can stand on its feet and meet the needs of consumers while helping our communities breathe cleaner air, save money, and keep Maine’s environmental beautiful for future generations. While these are lofty aspirations, Maine has great people who care about each other and our natural beauty- these are really our best assets.
Here is our current list of stakeholders:
American Lung Association of the Northeast
Central Maine Power
City of Portland
City of South Portland
Conservation Law Foundation
Electric Mobility NE
Governor’s Energy Office
Greater Portland Council of GOvernments
Greater Portland Convention & Visitors Bureau
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Maine Auto Dealers Association
Maine Clean Communtiies
Maine Department of Environmental Protection
Maine Department of Transportation
Maine Innkeepers Association
Maine Turnpike Authority
Natural Resources Council of MAine
University of Maine
What will be our definition of success? Getting 10,000 cars with plugs on our roads by 2020? Electrifying our I-95 corridor with DC Fast Chargers for our local communities and visiting tourists ? Creating a dynamic public charging space in our major cities? Focusing on helping our large employer workplaces get chargers?
Or perhaps our success will be achieved when we re-define what our love of transportation means. Love, what makes an EV, an EV. No smoke, no gas, no irreversible climate change. Does your Suburu do that? Then maybe you should ask them what love really means.