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Survey: Maine electric car owners love their cars, save money on fuel

BY Staff

9/4/2018
Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Jennifer Brennan, the energy projects manager at Greater Portland Council of Governments, charges her Mercedes-Benz Smart Fortwo at the Level 2 charging station at the office in Portland. A newly released survey compiled by Natural Resources Council of Maine reports that there are now twice as many electric cars in Maine compared to fall 2014.

Here's your chance to test drive an electric vehicle

Mainers can test drive several models of electric cars at fun, free events across Maine in September. NRCM is co-sponsoring events in South Paris on Saturday, Sept. 15,  and South Portland, Sunday, Sept. 16.  A third event is planned at L.L. Bean in Freeport on Friday, Sept. 14. Experienced electric car owners will be present at each event to show off their cars and talk about their experience.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine released today the results of its second comprehensive survey of Maine’s registered electric car owners. Among its findings: There are twice as many electric cars in Maine now as compared with fall 2014, when the previous survey was conducted.
The survey was mailed to every electric car owner in Maine — 1,300 of them — and 33% of them responded.
“Electric car owners in Maine live throughout the state and universally recommend their cars because they are saving money on gas, reducing pollution and, most of all they say, because the cars are fun to drive,” NRCM stated in a news release.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Top two reasons Mainers chose to buy electric cars: to reduce air pollution (76%) and save money on gasoline (50%).
  • Top reason Mainers like their electric cars: Drivability (e.g. good handling, acceleration)
  • Drivers would overwhelmingly recommend electric vehicles to others (91%) and find them reliable (96%) and easy/affordable to maintain (89%).
  • 52% of respondents save more than $50 per month on gasoline, and an additional 30% save at least $25 per month.
  • Most respondents (62%) use their electric vehicle for commuting; a third of electric vehicle commuters travel more than 20 miles each way to and from work.
  • Most initial concerns that electric vehicle drivers had when they purchased the car went away after they began driving; however, concerns about battery range and the availability of charging stations remain important.
  • Eighty-seven percent of electric car owners primarily charge their cars at home. Owners stated that charging at home, typically overnight, is extremely convenient and results in a full “tank” every morning. Another 9% charge primarily at work, which likely includes business- or municipal-owned vehicles.
Mainers also use public charging stations more than in 2014. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of drivers using a public charging station at least five times a year quadrupled, from around 5% to around 20%. Seventeen percent of drivers report using some kind of public (non-workplace) charging station as a “secondary” charging location, with just over 40% using public charging “occasionally.”

Dylan Voorhees, NRCM’s clean energy director, said more Mainers are choosing to buy electric cars as their availability increases.
“The survey shows that Mainers who drive electric are enthusiastic about their cars and their driving experience,” Voorhees said. “Electric car drivers are pumped, and the more people hear about that, the more Mainers will want to drive electric. It’s great to see Maine drivers embracing the technology.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists reported that driving a car that uses electricity from the Maine grid is equivalent to driving a gasoline-powered car that gets nearly 110 miles per gallon.
“Driving an electric car is a clear winner for our environment,” said Voorhees. “And as our electricity mix gets cleaner, as we increase wind and solar, electric cars are even better. We’ll need more electric cars in the coming decades to meet our carbon pollution goals and head off catastrophic climate disruption. That’s why the state needs to do more to support it.”
Voorhees said that the growing number of electric cars in Maine underscores the need to continue investing in publicly available charging stations.
“Charging stations at stores, city buildings, recreational destinations and other public spots are important to meet the needs of many Maine EV drivers,” said Voorhees. “That’s why we are excited that Efficiency Maine and the Maine Department of Transportation are teaming up to invest $3.5 million toward an emerging charging station plan for Maine. Fast-charging stations along travel corridors, paired with hundreds of smaller charging stations at longer-stay destinations, will make Maine an attractive destination for tourists who drive electric cars and will benefit Mainers, too.”
As Phase 1 of that plan, Efficiency Maine is currently seeking bidders to install and operate seven fast-charging stations on the Maine Turnpike and other travel corridors, NRCM reported.