Category Archives: Uncategorized

Maine begins to Transform its Transportation Sector


(Sara Burns, President of Central Maine Power, shares the ribbon cutting at the South Portland Community Center with Bob D’Orval of Nissan NA- July 24, 2014. Left to right 2d row- Travis Kennedy- Staff for Sen. Angus King, South Portland Mayor Jerry Jalbert, Greg Cunningham- Staff Attorney Conservation Law Foundation, Adam Lebel- Staff Attorney Environment Northeast, Phil Coupe- Founder ReVision Energy)

Despite some political headwinds in the state, Maine has an active group of environmental and clean tech stakeholders pushing EVs and charging station technology and capturing positive media.  Yesterday the first two large public charging clusters in Maine, each with a donated Nissan DCQC, both purposefully centered in its urban core, were unveiled before a broad audience at the South Portland Community Center.  The product of nearly a year long EV Pilot effort funded by a $100,000 matching grant program through Central Maine Power‘s rate payers and a working group comprised of the Natural Resource Council of Maine, Conservation Law Foundation, Environment Northeast, ReVision Energy and Grid Solar, the program is being administered by an informal group called the Maine EV Alliance, comprised of Barry Woods, an EV advocate and Attorney, the American Lung Association of the Northeast and Plug In America. Focusing in making a localized proof of concept in the Greater Portland area to display the technology to its citizens, the program will have generated an additional investment of over $150,000 toward vehicles and infrastructure.

The pilot has awarded matching grants for over ten vehicles, including three local governments- Portland, Scarborough and Standish, three large employers- ecomaine, Tilson Tech and Kepware, and four small business owners- Green Clean Maine, The Sunrise Guide, Portland House of Pizza and Bard Coffee.  In addition two workplace charging clusters at IDEXX and Hannaford Bros are in the process of being installed.  But yesterday the light shown most brightly on the Public Chargers located at the Fore Street Garage and the South Portland Community Center. Over a hundred attendees came to view and drive cars, four local car dealers brought product and expertise (Bill Dodge with a BMW i3, Pape and Quirk Chevrolet with Volts, and Lee Auto Group with a Toyota Plug in Prius and Nissan LEAF).

As the rain blew past, revealing blue skies, I could not help but feel gratitude for the many who came to celebrate and who worked to make this project a reality.  It was especially striking to have the site located a block from South Portland’s oil terminals and tank farm and to have this ceremony occur only a day after the South Portland city council voted against allowing tar sand oil be brought into the city.  While saying “no” to bad ideas is important, it’s also important to be able to say “yes” to something.  EVs are that positive solution to the oil addiction that is killing us and robbing us of our community resources.  Yesterday, two people at the event told me they would buy EVs after driving them.  Two down, and a few more to go!



From Sea to Shining Sea- At the Speed of a Good Idea

cadillac-mountain-sunrise-chad-tracyIf the Earth spun according to the laws of social change, and electric vehicle deployment, dawn would rise in the West and set in the East. With California creating its own Federally sanctioned zero-emission vehicle program and drafting some of the most forward leaning PEV policies in the U.S., it now accounts for the sale of one out of every three vehicle sales. In 2013, Washington State became home to more Tesla S sales per capita than even California, and the highest percentage of domestic PEV sales (1.6%).  Not to be out done in 2013, Hawai’i bumped California to third, tying Washington’s sales percentage.  Oregon consistently has the most public charging stations of any state and is in the top five domestic sales markets.  Collectively, California, Oregon and Washington have electrified their respective sections of Interstate Five– the West Coast Green Highway.  It’s easy to see why, then, when I leave my neighborhood in a suburb north of Portland, I usually stop counting Nissan LEAFs and feel twinges of pride at how far in the past four years our region has pushed this technology to the forefront of our neighbor’s consciousnesses.

And now, the West casts its dawn light far to the East, illuminating for others the virtues of this amazing technology, the plug-in electric vehicle.

In September, Massachusetts convened the first meeting of the Massachusetts EV Initiative Task Force (“MEVI”), in Boston, comprised of utilities, auto manufacturers like Nissan and Toyota, charging station providers, local governments, NGO’s like the Sierra Club, Plug In America, and Conservation Law Foundation, Environment Northeast and critical state agencies.  Working to make the Bay State a fast follower, MEVI’s work groups have drafted recommendations for three critical areas of public policy- Outreach, Infrastructure and Incentives.  At the same time, the Mass Department of Public Utilities has opened an EV Docket designed to address a litany of familiar consumer and electric utility issues associated with charging- such as whether public charging station providers should be regulated like utilities, will utilities be allowed to play in the infrastructure field, will EV charging be required to have separate meters- issues which western states have resolved with mixed success.  Indeed, as proof of its appetite to lead New England’s efforts to electrify, Massachusetts celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its first DCQC– February 18th at the UMass-Amherst campus and announced a state-based $2500 point of sale rebate for PEVs.

Even in Maine, (at Cadillac Mountain) where dawn officially first arrives each day in the United States, charging stations are springing up.   A coalition of diverse stakeholders, including Plug In America, the American Lung Association of the Northeast, the Conservation Law Foundation, Environment Northeast, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Nissan USA and the state’s largest utility, Central Maine Power, has embarked on an EV Pilot with grant funding to install infrastructure and provide vehicles to qualifying local communities, organization and businesses. The “other” Portland’s DCQC will be installed downtown at the Fore Street Garage in April, soon to be followed by the City of South Portland’s placement of a Nissan DCQC at its Community Center. At the same time, matching grants are being provided to Greater Portland businesses and local governments to help purchase vehicles and hasten public awareness of the viability of PEVs.  Workplace charging is scheduled at IDEXX, one of the area’s largest employers.

Traditionally dependent on oil for heating and transportation, New England is poised to learn from the lessons to the West.  And now we can truly say the EV’s cast a light from sea to shining sea.

Closing in on the Big One; EVs Reach 100,000

[Photo: BYU Bonneville Flats EV.  Although it isn’t the world’s fastest EV, the car uses 880 DeWalt Drill batteries which produce about 200hp.  The car set a record at 155mph but hit a top speed of 175mph.]

Soon, probably within the next six weeks based on recent monthly sales figures, somewhere in the US someone will purchase the 100,oooth electric vehicle.  But what does that really mean?

Being directly involved in sales/business development for an EV charging station provider has opened my eyes to a few of the realities of the market place and the relevance of this number.  Like most emerging technologies, but particularly ones that promise radical change to the existing system and the formidable interests invested in them, the road to deployment is not straight and flat.  Misinformation abounds- about the car’s cost, its range, its battery’s resiliency, an EV’s carbon emissions, the superiority of other alternative fuels, its”green” political pre-disposition.   Often the one with the bullhorn shapes the “facts”.  I read a mix of daily articles from news sources all over the world and it would be interesting to document the ratio of negative to positive commentary as an indicator of the market’s actual progress.

Even as recently as six months ago, when I would go into auto dealerships to sell chargers, they would listen politely and tell me they had sold very few Volts or LEAFs and their customers weren’t interested in charging stations.

Where are we today? We have Nissan, Tesla, Chevy, Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, BMW, even FIAT, manufacturing PEV models with their own branding.  Now when I go into auto dealers, they invite me back to speak to their sales staff and discuss charging as an issue and what their customers will need to make better use of the car’s range capabilities.  Anecdotally, last month in Portland’s metro area, Nissan dealers collectively sold more 2013 LEAFs than any other model- including the Altima- over 65 units between the four major dealerships. Tesla’s stock is up over 43% since the beginning of the year.  17,813 PEVs have been sold this year since March, practically matching the entire PEV sales for all of 2011.  While PHEV still account for a 2/3 share of all sales to date, March revealed that BEV purchases exceeded PHEVs for the first time since 2011, fueled in part by Nissan’s aggressive pricing and the Tesla S’s popularity.  Consumers are embracing both technologies- and no one can predict which may become dominant even in the short-term. We are on track create a passenger fleet of almost 100,000 PEVs in a little over two years, and the graph shows purchasing accelerating faster than the adoption of the Toyota Prius over the same timeframe- by some estimates soon to experience 48% annual growth.

From a grid perspective, we now have over 2,000 megawatts of battery storage associated with the domestic PEV fleet.  To provide perspective, Boardman Coal Plant, the largest remaining coal plant in Oregon, has a nameplate capacity of 550 mWh- and serves as base power generation for a service territory of over 800,000 people. Many utilities have now begun to consider the imminent prospect of using PEV related storage for direct load management to assist in smoothing their peaks and avoid triggering activation of older, dirtier generation sources.  This is shown by a number of pilot studies going on nationally and increased interest in pursuing them as part of smart grid planning and utilizing smart meters communication capabilities. I recently met with a representative of Puget Sound Energy, with a service territory in Seattle, who remarked that their DMV data showed purchases of over 300 PEVs in their territory- just for the month of March.  These numbers make utilities imagine the future is much, much closer- and spur investment in harnessing ancillary benefits for the grid.

So as we take stock in April 2013, and try to be objective and critical and dispassionate, we can admit that the reality of where we are is a great place compared to where we have been. Over 93,000 PEVs have now been sold. We were correct about the prospects for growth of PEV technology, as their sales progress outpacing the growth of the hybrid vehicle over its first three years.  And hybrids did not have “range anxiety” issues or the complex amount of information associated with them. We were correct in believing that the American consumer would accept an alternative choice besides gasoline if the technology delivered performance and savings over the long haul.  A virtuous market- and policy-based cycle has developed to bring down prices and spur R & D. We appreciate that these vehicles are not just “green,” they are advanced vehicle technology creating better transportation choices and superior driving experiences.  They can become the Car of the Year.

Most importantly we are now soon to celebrate 100,000 PEVs on the road in the United States.  When has that happened before?  Never.

So as we mark the 100,000th domestic sale of a car with a plug, which should happen in the next six weeks, we need to recognize that we are emerging from the fog onto a clear, flat, open expanse where we can stomp the accelerator and let the true qualities of what’s under the hood  be free and- as if that’s not enough-the posted speed limit just increased.