October 26, 2013

Maine declines to join effort to promote more zero-emission cars

The state was invited to join an eight-state coalition to encourage more purchases of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

By J. Craig Anderson canderson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Electric cars

Should Maine participate in an effort to make it easier to own an electric car?

Yes

No

View Results

click image to enlarge

An electric charger.

click image to enlarge

Marc Lausier, above, of Scarborough charges his Nissan Leaf, a fully electric car, at TideSmart Global in Falmouth on Friday. Gov. Paul LePage turned down Lausier’s offer to test drive the car. The photo at top shows the front end of the electric charger.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

“Maine should be part of initiatives like this,” Voorhees said. “The fact is, electric vehicles are cleaner and they are cheaper to drive.”

Maine has had a complicated history with efforts to raise auto emissions standards: The state instituted a tough, first-in-the-nation program in the mid-1990s to reduce emissions by using testing sites to inspect vehicles, but rescinded it after testing hit several start-up problems, intense public criticism and even a petition drive intended to repeal it.

Motorists also objected to the increased cost of vehicle inspections.

Although data on the number of electric vehicles in Maine were not available, anecdotal evidence from car dealerships in the state indicate that consumer interest in purchasing electric vehicles is still low.

Bryan Lackee, sales representative at Darling’s Nissan in Bangor, said the dealership has only sold a handful of units of the Nissan Leaf, the company’s only zero-emissions vehicle.

“I’ve sold two myself as a salesperson,” he said.

Still, Lackee said he believes the market for such vehicles is poised to heat up in Maine.

Electric car owner Marc Lausier of Scarborough agreed.

Lausier, who purchased his Nissan Leaf in March 2012, said he has contacted LePage in hopes of persuading him of the benefits of zero-emission cars.

“About nine months ago I offered to let him test-drive the car,” but the governor declined, he said. “Unfortunately he’s just not an environmentalist.”

Lausier said that adding more charging stations in Maine likely would lead to faster adoption of electric cars, but he acknowledged that it’s a chicken-or-egg debate.

In the end, consumers will choose zero-emission vehicles when they are more affordable and convenient than gasoline-powered cars, he said.

One major step would be increasing their range on a single charge, Lausier said, something car companies already are working on. The Nissan Leaf can go about 75 miles on a single charge. Chevrolet’s Volt, a plug-in hybrid electric car, gets about 35 miles on a single charge, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Ultimately it will be market forces that move people into buying them,” Lausier said.

Stephen Woods, president and CEO of TideSmart Global in Falmouth, which has a free public charging station for electric vehicles, said state officials could help grow the market for electric cars in Maine if they made it a priority.

“I think Maine needs a much stronger and clearer policy on how to approach electric vehicles,” said Woods, who is chairman of the Yarmouth Town Council and a former Democratic candidate for governor.

He said making Maine more conducive to zero-emission vehicle ownership will require cooperation among state and local governments and the private sector.

“Unfortunately, Maine has been a little slow to the party,” Woods said.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 207-791-6390 or:

canderson@pressherald.com

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

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Today's poll: Electric cars

Should Maine participate in an effort to make it easier to own an electric car?

Yes

No

View Results