Category Archives: Global warming

Drive Electric Maine- Love It’s What Makes an EV, an EV.

 

DEM_Logo1.30.16

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:

Acadia Center

American Lung Association of the Northeast

Avangrid Foundation

Central Maine Power

City of Portland

City of South Portland

E2Tech

Conservation Law Foundation

Delhaize/Hannaford

Electric Mobility NE

Emera Maine

Governor’s Energy Office

Greater Portland Council of GOvernments

Greater Portland Convention & Visitors Bureau

Green Campuses

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

ReVision Energy

Sierra Club

Sunrun, Inc.

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.

Electric Vehicles, Coal & Dirty Electricity

Coal in Stocking

Since it is the Holiday Season, and some traditions continue, such as busting PEVs because they allegedly use dirty electricity and can’t then be zero emission, I include this brief op-ed from last week for your reading pleasure.  The final take away is simple- where you live and how your local utilities get their electricity do play a role in how clean your PEV runs and since most states increasingly support alternative forms of renewable energy, your PEV will likely continue to get cleaner.  So enjoy the season and stop feeling guilty!

Tuesday’s Portland Press Herald Article by Seth Borenstein, titled, “For electric cars, it’s not simple to be green,” offers outdated and misguided commentary on the issue of “dirty” electricity and whether electric vehicles are more of a problem than a solution when it comes to transportation-based emissions.  As a study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2012, “State of Charge; Electric Vehicles Global Warming Emissions and Fuel-cost Savings across the United States” concluded, EVs are vastly superior in their emission profiles over most regions of the US.  It boils down to where the electricity comes from.  If you live in the Wyoming where coal is used for base load generation, your EV does contribute to GHG emissions on a par with a combustion engine.  That is one reason why coal-fired power plants are no longer viable for electricity generation and are being moth-balled.  Conversely, if you live in Maine, with an increasingly healthy mix of renewable energy generation sources, including wind, tidal, hydro, solar and biomass and the cleanest grid in New England, operating your electric vehicle is much less carbon intense than your neighbor’s gas-powered car.  The good news is most states, like Maine, have a renewable portfolio standard that has resulted in ongoing efforts to clean up their electricity generation, so an EV actually drives cleaner the longer you own it!  That is not true of your gasoline vehicle.  Mr. Borenstein chooses to highlight the coal connection rather than the clean connection.  I leave you with the final sentence of the PNAS study quoted by Mr. Borenstein, which reads, “Consideration of potential climate change impacts alongside the human health outcomes described here further reinforces the environmental preferability of EVs powered by low-emitting electricity relative to gasoline vehicles.” (Emphasis added).

Maine, and all the New England states, should be proud of their efforts to promote clean electricity and their EV-owners can drive with clear consciences.

Follow this link to go to my actual op-ed.

Travel Oregon and Oregon Vintners- It’s Not All about the Pinot Noir

 

When we think of wine tasting, we try to capture a fleeting moment of pleasure as we sip and gurgle. We use words not often used in our day-to-day manner to try to capture the experience, even if they seem like crude tools.  We test the “nose”, we watch the “legs”, we taste the “rich tones of cherry and oak.”

In many ways the same struggle to describe the fleeting flavor of a new wine occurs when we try to describe driving electric.  The car is silent, save for a high end background noise, a whine, a powerful register not out of place. The tire treads seeth, growl and roar along the roadbed, keeping pace with the speed.  The car responds like a horse with spurs to its side, instantly, and it accelerates with a straight build-up of speed like nothing we have felt before.  We wait for the hesitation of gears but find only more power.  A Tesla’s acceleration is like experiencing the recoil of a high velocity rifle for the first time.  There is no smell but the smell of other cars.  Sitting in traffic, we are like an athlete between events, quiet, alert and ready, but not wasting any energy in the moment before the true test.  We try to explain it, this driving electric, but like a rare vintage, it is best left for each person to actually experience.  When it comes to driving a vehicle we are all unlikely connoisseurs as we have spent prodigious amounts of our lives performing the task.  Our muscles and minds harbor sophisticated impressions of what it is to “drive”.  Trying to reduce it down to language only displays how crude and blunt an instrument is vocabulary.

But this post is not actually about Oregon wine.  Its about the unlikely combination of wineries and electric charging stations.

As Oregon strives to push the EV envelope and make effective use of its existing charging infrastructure, Travel Oregon has created an opportunity for our wineries to participate in attracting Eco-Tourist dollars.  The plan is simple- any winery that installs chargers and is a sustainable business can be placed on an EV itinerary.

I have personally visited four wineries – with five more to come- and found much enthusiasm to install chargers and attract the EV crowd.  Winery owners seem to appreciate, more than other industries, the long-term impact of electrifying transportation on the climate- which more and more is messing with their harvests and forcing them to plant their vines at higher elevations.  EVs are good for their business and good for their vineyards.  So, check out the Black Walnut Inn, or Elk Cove, or Sokol Blosser when you next want to try a tasting room with a view.  And as you partake of the fruit, think about how you’d describe the drive to get there- a powerful electric whine with a clean finish.