What will it take to get more Mainers driving electric vehicles? Let’s find out with our own EV

Maine Public has obtained an electric vehicle -- a white Nissan Leaf nicknamed "Pearl," shown here -- that reporters will drive to places across Maine for our Climate Driven series.

Maine Public has obtained an electric vehicle — a Nissan Leaf nicknamed “Pearl” — that reporters will drive to places across Maine for our Climate Driven series. (Esta Pratt-Kielley / Maine Public)

Vehicles are responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions in Maine. One goal in the state’s climate change response plan is to get more electric vehicles on the road.

There are currently only about 6,000, which is a 90% increase from just a couple years ago. But it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the 219,000 the state wants to see in use by the end of the decade. Michael Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine, says that would mean one of every six cars on the road would be electric.

“That’s a steep ramp up. That’s a really aggressive curve,” he says.

But Stoddard says he’s optimistic that the state can meet that goal. The first hurdle to clear, he says, is cost. The lowest sticker price for a new EV is around $30,000. State and federal incentives can bring that price down. Efficiency Maine offers rebates between $1,000 and $5,500, depending on income level and whether the car is electric or plug-in hybrid. A federal tax credit knocks off an additional $7,500 for certain EVs.

“So once you add all those up, you can be getting an upfront cost which is very similar to what a regular car would be,” he says.

And Stoddard says operating costs for EVs are lower. They require less maintenance, and you don’t have to buy gas. Still, a car purchase is a big financial decision, and a recent report on Maine’s clean transportation goals found that more financial incentives are needed to get consumers to invest in electric vehicles.

For now, Stoddard says there is one other option that can be more affordable: “We encourage people to lease. That’s maybe a good way to test the waters if you’re not so sure.”

That’s exactly what Maine Public’s news team opted to do, to learn more about electric vehicles and to reduce our carbon footprint while reporting this statewide series.

For the rest of this story, including the audio version, please visit MainePublic.org. This feature is part of Maine Public’s series “Climate Driven: A deep dive into Maine’s response, one county at a time.