A GEM electric vehicle travels on the Loop Road at Acadia National Park, Saturday, June 11, 2022, near Bar Harbor, Maine. The vehicles, which can be rented in two, four or six-person sizes, are street legal on any paved road with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or less. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Mainers who traded in gas for electric vehicles are feeling less worried about charging them and focusing more on benefits such as fuel savings, reliability, a survey released Wednesday found.

More than 6,800 Mainers own or lease EVs, five times more than in 2018 but still less than 1 percent of all vehicles on the road. The increase in EV use shows users are overcoming fears of cost or running out of electric charge and not being able to find places to recharge.

Some 97 percent of respondents to a survey from the Natural Resources Council of Maine said they save $25 or more a month on gas, while more than half save $50 or more. The April survey had 1,230 responses from across the state, or about 18 percent of total owners in Maine.

“There’s no question as more models come to market and we continue to expand our network of charging stations, more and more Mainers will find electric cars and trucks an attractive and affordable option,” Jack Shapiro, NRCM’s climate and clean energy director, said.

There is still some initial hesitation about buying a fully electric car instead of a plug-in hybrid, which runs on electricity until the charge is out and then converts to gas. Forty-four percent of the EV owners surveyed had fully electric vehicles, up from 30 percent in 2018, and 56 percent own a plug-in hybrid.

The survey found that EV charging is becoming more convenient, with 90 percent of owners saying they primarily charge cars at home. Concerns about the costs of charging before respondents bought a car dropped by 73 percent after they began driving their EVs.

“I was a little timid, so at first I bought a plug-in hybrid,” Old Town resident Jim Mitchell said. “But my next car is going to be purely electric. It’s just reached the point of reliability.”

Lubec Brewing Co. owner Gale White said her electric vehicle is quiet and fun to drive with “incredible pick up.” It also costs little to operate, she said.

EVs are a key part of the Maine and U.S. climate plans to reduce greenhouse gasses, but widespread use still is an uphill battle. A report issued by Gov. Janet Mills’ administration in December said Maine doesn’t have enough money to meet its EV goals. A provision in the federal Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Joe Biden on Tuesday that aims to make electric vehicles affordable to more people may end up dampening sales instead.

Three concerns persisted among survey respondents. Forty-four percent worry about the lack of available public charging stations, 32 percent worry about battery range and 30 percent are concerned about their EV’s performance in the cold. Some 73 percent of EV drivers are more likely to choose a destination if it has charging stations.

Maine has 768 charging stations at 377 locations that can be seen on Efficiency Maine’s map.

Making charging stations and replacement parts widely available would be the most effective way to speed up EV adoption, a February 2021 study by CarGurus found. It surveyed 1,097 U.S. car owners and discovered more than half expect to own an EV in the next 10 years, up from 34 percent in 2018.

Millennials are the most likely generation to buy or consider buying an EV as their next car, followed by Gen X and then Baby Boomers, a 2020 Consumer Reports survey found.

Lori Valigra, senior reporter for economy and business, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...