2018-10-05 / Community

Our Sustainable City

Electric vehicles: Getting better ‘smileage’ on road
By Lucy Brennan
Sustainability Program Coordinator

Believe it or not, one of the most impactful changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint is to drive an electric vehicle. The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and according to the EPA, light-duty vehicles account for roughly 60 percent of all transportation sector emissions. Maine is no exception to this trend; cars and trucks are the largest source of climate change pollution in the state.

Plug-in electric vehicles put Mainers on track to realize environmental and economic benefits, while also enjoying a smooth ride. These vehicles release zero direct emissions such as smog-forming nitrogen oxides or other pollutants that are harmful to human health. Additionally, electric vehicles do not produce emissions associated with fuel production from conventional gasoline and diesel engines.

The benefits don’t stop there.The investment in an electric vehicle pays off. These clean cars run at $1.47 per electric gallon, that’s roughly $1.50 less per gallon than a car with a gasoline engine. Not to mention, drivers of all-electric vehicles are also unaffected by the volatility in gas prices. Beyond the pump, electric vehicles boast considerably lower maintenance costs. Fewer electric engine parts ensure lower operational costs and components such as regenerative braking double the lifecycle of the car’s breaks.

While environmental and cost savings propel Mainers to get behind the wheel, a Natural Resources Council of Maine survey found that the top reason Mainers like their electric car is actually drivability. Drivers find the cars are quick, responsive, quiet, and handle well. It is evident that the transformative clean technology is also transforming the driving experience.

As electric vehicles become more advanced, affordable and diverse, drivers are catching on. When the first models hit the U.S. market in 2011, 17,000 cars were sold nationwide. In 2017, with more than 40 models available on the market, car dealers sold 200,000 electric vehicles. Americans will soon surpass a major milestone, 1 million cumulative electric vehicles purchased, 1,300 of which reside here in Maine. Electric vehicles have come a long way from 2011. Today, top all-electric vehicles champion a range of 250 battery miles. The diversity of electric vehicles cater to a variety of lifestyles. A minivan, SUV, and four-wheel drive vehicle have joined the ranks of more traditional sedans.

A growing presence of electric vehicles has gone hand-inhand with higher visibility of charging infrastructure. Here in South Portland, public charging stations are available across the city. Electric vehicle drivers can plug in at city hall, the community center, the municipal services facility, Hannaford by the Maine Mall, and Howard Johnson, as well as select car dealerships and hotels. The state of Maine also recently received $1.5 million to further expand and build-out charging infrastructure at seven locations along I-95 and connectors with New Hampshire and Quebec.

Are you curious to try an electric vehicle out for yourself now? The best way to get comfortable with the new ride is to simply get behind the wheel. Call your local car dealer with an electric vehicle on the lot and take it out for a test drive. Hop in the car with a friend or a neighbor who is hooked on their electric ride. Or mark your calendar for Oct. 20 when the city of South Portland will team up with the city of Portland, the University of Southern Maine, Greater Portland Council of Governments and Efficiency Maine to host an Energy Expo. The expo, held at USM, will feature local car dealers and provide an opportunity to test drive electric vehicles.

Want to learn more? Check out these online resources for more information:

• Plug In America maintains an inventory of electric vehicles on the market and other infrastructure add-ons.

• PlugShare visualizes the evolution of adoption by mapping the location of available charging stations in your area.

• Drive Electric Maine can connects you with local stakeholders focused on growing workplace, utility, and consumer investment.

• Efficiency Maine Trust provides updates on state-based efforts to expand electric vehicle infrastructure.

Our Sustainable City is a recurring

column in the Sentry intended to provide residents with news and information about sustainability initiatives in South Portland. The Sustainability Office is staffed by a full-time director and part-time program coordinator, and is located on the first floor of City Hall.

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