The town of Cumberland is leasing two all-electric Hyndai Ioniq cars like this one. The town is getting a rebate from Efficiency Maine to pay for the leases. Courtesy / Rowe Hyundai of Westbrook

The town of Cumberland is expanding its fleet of renewable energy vehicles with a new lease of two all-electric cars that won’t cost taxpayers a cent.

Cumberland Police Capt. David Young, who negotiated the deal for the new Hyndai Ioniq sedans on behalf of the town, said he expects the cars to be delivered within a week. Young said one vehicle will be used by the police department, while town officials will use the other.

Neither vehicle will be marked, Young said. The police vehicle will be for officers traveling to and from court or training programs, and the other vehicle will be used for similar travel on town business.

“It’s strictly for administrative use,” he said.

The cars will be paid for by rebates from Efficiency Maine, an Augusta-based quasi-public nonprofit that works, according to its website, to “improve the efficiency of energy use and reduce greenhouse gases in Maine.” The organization has been using the rebates to promote the use of energy-efficient vehicles such as electric cars and plug-in gasoline-electric hybrids, according to Molly Siegel, Efficiency Maine’s program manager.

“We thought it would be a good way to jumpstart the transition to EVs by municipalities,” Siegel said.

Siegel said the money to fund the rebates comes from millions of dollars in funding Maine received as part of a multibillion-dollar lawsuit carmaker Volkswagen lost in 2018 with the federal government over violations of environmental regulations. The initial rebates, she said, were $7,500 for electric vehicles and $2,000 for hybrids. Starting in December 2020, the organization raised the rebates to $12,000 for fully-electric vehicles, and $5,000 for plug-in hybrids. Since then, Siegel said, municipal applications for the rebates have doubled, which was the point.

“We wanted to give it more of a boost,” she said.

So far, Siegel said, Efficiency Maine has paid out rebates on 12 different vehicles to 10 different municipalities throughout the state, and she said several more are in the works. She declined to say just how much money the organization has set aside for the rebates, but said the program has enough funding for at least another 150 electric vehicles.

“It really depends on interest and the amount of funding we have left,” she said.

Young said Rowe Ford in Westbrook reached out to town officials with an offer to lease the vehicles in late January. The cars will be on a three-year lease, and Young said the rebates will cover the leases.

“It’s going to be basically free for both cars,” he said.

These are the first all-electric vehicles the town has used, but Young said the police department has been using a fully-marked hybrid Ford Interceptor police cruiser since the town bought it in 2019. Young said the town just bought a second 2021 hybrid model as well.

“It’s the same police vehicle we’ve been using for years,” he said. “It’s just a hybrid model.”

So far, Young said, the cruiser has performed exactly the same as the original all-gasoline version, and officers use very little gas in the hybrid while on patrol, which saves the town even more money.

“We’ve had people that have hit the road and come back, and it hasn’t even moved off of ‘full,'” he said, referring to the gas gauge.

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