For some time now our elected officials, both state and federal, have proclaimed their support for the vital task of outfitting our roads with electric vehicle charging stations. The idea is to spur the sale and use of battery-powered electric vehicles by providing facilities for EVs to charge their batteries when they are away from home. Given the priority of increasing EV use, it is remarkable how little actual progress is being made in getting the job meaningfully started.

To be sure, federal dollars for charging stations await the enactment of the pending infrastructure legislation. However, two years ago Maine received nearly $6 million from the Volkswagen settlement, which it said would be used to promote the purchase of EVs, including the construction of public EV chargers. How come so little has been accomplished in getting them up and going?

Except for Tesla, which provides owners of its electric cars abundant opportunities to charge en route, no electric-car manufacturer helps support the network of charging stations that is needed to make EV driving commonplace. Particularly important are the high-voltage “quick-charge” stations that can extend an EV’s range by about 100 miles in an half-hour of charging. Having enough of these on major highways throughout the state is vital to convincing traveling motorists that they will not run out of juice.

“Level 2” chargers, which operate at 220 volts, provide only about 20 miles of range per hour of charging. They are appropriate for hotel and restaurant parking areas and perhaps shopping centers and parking garages where drivers can leave their cars for extended periods. They do not help drivers on trips longer than their EVs’ 200- to 250-mile range.

It is true that almost all charging for around-town EV driving is done at home via Level 2 charges in garages. It is also true that those quick-charge stations that do exist are very lightly used. We should not anticipate or require that there be EVs lined up to use quick-chargers. They are necessary to provide charges in case, so that EVs can go on occasional trips as well as around the block every day.

Quick-charge stations are sparse in southern Maine and virtually nonexistent north of Augusta and along the Maine coast. Considering the volume of out-of-state visitors expected each year at Acadia National Park, it is remarkable that no quick-charge stations are on Mount Desert Island, or along routes 3 and 1 leading there.

Prominent signage of quick-charge stations along the highways is very important, not only to alert EV drivers, but also to reassure those considering purchase of electric cars that charging capability will be there for them. Quick-charge stations buried in downtown parking garages are virtually useless to the highway-traveling public.

Maine can take a page out of Vermont’s book. In Vermont, quick-charge stations are at most exits along Route 89 and at 40- to 60-mile intervals along other major routes such as Route 2.  They are in parking lots of gas stations and convenience stores on or very near the highways. They are advertised by signs on the highways and on the premises. An EV driver feels a lot more comfortable traveling in Vermont than in Maine.

In Maine, a start would be to locate a quick-charge station at the “Maine Welcome Center” on Interstate 95 just inside the border. Others should be spotted on Route 95 or just off it all the way to Houlton, and along routes 1, 2, 3 and 4, all important arteries for tourist as well as local traffic. Properly located and signed, another two dozen quick-charge stations could turn the tide and convert Maine, currently an EV wasteland, into an EV-friendly environment.

Let’s use our VW $6 million to help Maine join the EV revolution – right now!

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