The Bangor Police Department has a new electric car, which is used as a court officer car, as part of an effort to be more environmentally friendly. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Thomaston’s police department might be small, but it’s one of the first in Maine to try out an electric vehicle as a standard patrol car.

The town bought a fully electric Ford Mustang Mach-E in August, taking advantage of a rebate program offered by Efficiency Maine that aimed to make it more affordable for Maine towns to purchase electric vehicles. In total 33 Maine towns participated in the program, including Bangor, which purchased an electric vehicle for its police department. 

While Thomaston’s police department only has four cruisers, town officials said they wanted to begin integrating electric vehicles into the fleet in an attempt to be more sustainable and get ahead of the trend.

“At some point everyone is going to be [using electric cruisers] so I thought it would be a great idea to get ahead of it and try it out,” Thomaston Police Chief Tim Hoppe said.

Between the $12,000 rebate from Efficiency Maine and the $12,000 the town received for trading in one of the department’s old cruisers, Thomaston paid about $26,000 for the new, entirely electric four-door Ford.

The car will cost the town about $700 in electricity annually, versus thousands of dollars in fuel, according to Thomaston Town Manager Kara George. Without the need for oil changes, Hoppe also said maintenance costs will be lower.

The cruiser can go about 240 miles on a full battery. Hoppe said he charges the vehicle every few days and he’s yet to drain the battery down below 70 percent. The department is still waiting to have the siren function installed, but Hoppe recently ran the emergency lights on the cruiser for about three hours during an incident and the battery barely went down, he said.

Since the electric vehicle is quieter than a standard gas-powered cruiser, Hoppe said he’s able to better hear his surroundings, including his police radio.

“I definitely love [the vehicle]. It’s super comfortable. Obviously, extremely quiet,” Hoppe said. “It’s amazingly different.”

In neighboring Rockland, city officials are also testing out their first electric vehicle. The city ― which also received a rebate through the Efficiency Maine program ― is leasing a Nissan Leaf.

The vehicle is being used by city hall staff that need to drive around town for work, such as the code enforcement officer. Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell said the $150 monthly payment on the vehicle is less than what the city pays a code enforcement officer for a mileage stipend  each month when they are using their own personal vehicle.

Luttrell said the car is allowing the city to test the waters with electric vehicles before it considers purchasing them for other departments. The city is keeping tabs on how the electric police cruiser in Thomaston is working out, Luttrell said.

“I think it’s the wave of the future,” Luttrell said.

Elsewhere in the midcoast region, the town of Brunswick also utilized the rebates being offered by Efficiency Maine to get several electric vehicles for town use.

Molly Siegel, of Efficiency Maine, said electric vehicles can be a good fit for municipalities, since town-owned vehicles are often used very predictably and are left parked after typical business hours so they can charge. She also said many towns are looking to invest in these vehicles to coincide with environmental goals.

As car manufacturers begin to release more types of electric vehicles ― including pick-up trucks ― Siegel said she anticipates seeing more incorporated into town-owned fleets.

“For municipalities, a lot of them have sustainability goals, wanting to cut carbon goals and lead by example and [are] realizing that [town-owned] fleets are a good option for electric vehicles even if individuals might be more hesitant,” Siegel said.