2014-09-19 / Front Page

City hopes public will plug-in to electric vehicles

By Duke Harrington
Contributing Writer


Scarborough resident Marc Lausier poses with his Nissan Leaf electric vehicle, plugged into the new public charging station located at the Community Center on Nelson Road. From noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21, nearly a dozen electric vehicles will be on site and available for test drives by the public as part of National Drive Electric Week. (Courtesy photo) Scarborough resident Marc Lausier poses with his Nissan Leaf electric vehicle, plugged into the new public charging station located at the Community Center on Nelson Road. From noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21, nearly a dozen electric vehicles will be on site and available for test drives by the public as part of National Drive Electric Week. (Courtesy photo) SOUTH PORTLAND — Not content to rest on its own efforts to reduce carbon emissions, South Portland is hoping to enlist its residents in the “green” revolution.

From noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21, at the South Portland Community Center on Nelson Road, the city will co-sponsor a test drive event, at which the public is invited to come and tool around the block in any one of a dozen electric vehicles.

“There will be as many electric cars in one location in the state of Maine as you will ever see,” said City Manager Jim Gailey, at the Sept. 3 city council meeting. During that session, the council unanimously adopted a resolution declaring Sept. 15-21 to be National Drive Electric Week in the Park City.

“Once again, South Portland leads the way,” said Councilor Patti Smith. “I’m excited that once again we are on the cusp of this very exciting movement.”

Nearly 150 similar test drive events are being staged around the nation this week as part of Drive Electric Week, sponsored since 2011 by Nissan to promote its 100 percent electric Nissan Leaf. However, the South Portland show is the only one scheduled to occur in Maine.

“We are pleased to be the host city for such an important event,” said Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings, who helped organize the National Plug-In Day display. “The city has taken a leadership role in developing the infrastructure that will allow greater use of electric vehicles. In addition, we are looking at converting our non-emergency fleet of vehicles to electric in the coming years.”

In late July, South Portland opened its first public charging station, which includes a standard Level 2 charger as well as a DC Quick Charge plug, the latter of which can bring an electric vehicle to 80 percent of a full charge in about 20 minutes. Gailey said another Level 2 charger is on hand awaiting installation at city hall, “hopefully, within the next month.” Meanwhile, plans are in place to install a third charger at the planning and development office on Sawyer Street that will run off the building’s solar panels.

“That one is kind of exciting because it will allow us to charge our vehicles completely off the grid,” Gailey said.

Recently, electric vehicles have been making in-roads in Maine. According to the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles, there are now more than 100 Chevy Volts and about 50 Nissan Leafs registered in the state.

That’s a fair jump from 2012, when Scarborough resident Marc Lausier bought what is believed to be the first Nissan Leaf sold in Maine.

“Based on my very positive experience driving the highly efficient battery-powered Leaf as my only car for the last two and a half years, I can say with confidence I’ll never own a gas-powered car ever again,”” he said on Tuesday. “At the present speed of battery technology advancement, I firmly believe that when most of the children born today are ready to buy their first cars, those will all very likely be 100 percent electric vehicles.”

Lausier is co-captaining the local Plug-In day event, which is sponsored by Central Maine Power and the Natural Resource Council of Maine, along with the city of South Portland.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and so too is a test drive in an electric car,” Lausier said. “We hope to give many people that opportunity at the National Drive Electric Week event.”

Lausier’s co-captain is Barry Woods of South Portland, who is on the board of directors for advocacy group Plug-In America, a national organizer of National Drive Electric week.

Woods, a former Mainer who recently returned to the state to take a job at Portland law firm Drummond & Drummond, where he focuses on sustainability issues, got involved in the electric car movement about four years ago, while living in Oregon.

“I thought it was a really elegant solution to a lot of the energy and climate issues that we’ve got facing us,” he said. “When I relocated, I wanted to use the knowledge base I’d built up to see if I could help Maine and joined a pilot project through CMP that promotes electric vehicles through matching grant funding.

“The purpose of Plug-In Day is just to attract public attention to this technology, and to allow people to just have fun with it,” said Woods, adding that the test drive event will feature hybrid as well as all-electric vehicles.

“There will be a pretty good range of vehicles, each having their own set of advantages and differences,” Woods said. “That will allow people to sort of shop them based on their own transportation needs, to determine which will work for their own lifestyle.”

Anyone who does test drive a vehicle on Sept. 21 at the community center will be entered into a raffle to win a Level 2 ECS 40 charging station for his or her home use, valued at $640, Woods said.

“The cost per charge is amazingly low, just the barest fraction of what it costs to fill up with carbon fuel,” said Mayor Gerard Jalbert.

According to the website energy.gov, it costs about three times less to charge an electric car, versus filling the tank with gasoline. Based on current electricity rates in Maine, an eGallon — calculated as the cost of driving an electric car the same distance the average car can go on one gallon of gas — is $1.52. That compares to a current statewide average of $3.65 per gallon for gasoline.

“Any time we can reduce our dependence on carbon feels, that’s a great day,” said Councilor Tom Blake.

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