An electric vehicle charges at an EVgo fast charging station in Detroit on Nov. 16, 2022. Credit: Paul Sancya / AP

Maine is far from reaching its electric vehicles goals, but the state is continuing to work to make the emissions-friendly vehicles more accessible to Mainers.

Maine currently has about 9,500 electric vehicles, according to state data. It would need to add 30,000 more electric vehicles each year for the next seven years to reach the goal laid out in its climate action plan.

The state has an ambitious target to cut down 45 percent of its emissions by 2030. For this to happen, the state’s climate action plan, Maine Won’t Wait, estimates it needs 219,000 electric vehicles on the roads by then. To date, Maine has reached just 4 percent of its goal.

Since 2020, each year there has been a 1 percent increase in the number of registered battery powered and plug-in electric vehicles, according to data from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. At this rate, by 2030, the state may only reach 11 percent of its goal.

The slow increase in electric vehicles is a result of supply chain issues, a lack of charging infrastructure and the high price of the vehicles, said Lynne Cayting, chief of the mobile services section in the Bureau of Air Quality at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

“Over time some of these issues will be addressed through more infrastructure development, more vehicle availability and costs coming down,” Cayting said.

On April 12, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed standards to significantly reduce harmful air emissions from cars and trucks, and ensure two-thirds of new passenger cars are electric by 2032.

The goal is to reverse some of the effects of climate change, which is caused by high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere trapping heat that Earth otherwise would have radiated into space.

The new proposed emissions standards are projected to avoid about 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or more than twice the total carbon dioxide emissions in the country for 2022.

“We believe that, although the state’s target of 219,000 electric vehicles is an ambitious goal, the new federal emissions standards will result in the manufacturing of more electric vehicles to be sold in the future, and that would include more affordable options, too,” Cayting said.

Based on state calculations, battery and plug-in electric vehicle sales were 5.9 percent of new vehicle sales in 2022, she said.

Electric vehicles are expensive for most Mainers. As of January 2023, nearly 40 percent of the registered electric vehicles in the state were owned by residents in Cumberland County, according to state data. The county has the highest median household income, at about $80,000, based on the U.S. census.

Depending on the model, electric vehicles can cost anywhere from $26,000 to more than $100,000.

There are federal and state incentives to make electric vehicles more affordable. Efficiency Maine, a quasi-state agency, offers rebate programs, or partial refunds, for qualifying electric vehicles. Lower-income Mainers can get up to $7,500, and moderate-income Mainers can get up to $3,500, according to Amalia Siegel, the program manager of Electric Vehicle Initiatives at Efficiency Maine.

“We expect that federal and state incentives would make electric vehicles more affordable to people of lower to moderate incomes, and Maine has a large population of this demographic,” she said.

While state data show a slow increase in registered electric vehicles, Siegel said, there is pent up demand for electric vehicles in Maine. Since 2021, global supply chain issues have resulted in slower electric vehicle adoption, she said.

“Many people in the state reported that they would order a vehicle, but there would be no guaranteed delivery for another six months to a year,” she said. “Mainers are demanding electric vehicles, but dealers say they can’t get the vehicles fast enough.”  

The state also aims to build more charging stations to support the transition to electric vehicles. Currently, there are 414 public charging stations in Maine at various locations, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Efficiency Maine plans to add 51 fast-charging ports to existing 13 public charging stations this year, costing more than $10 million. Over the next five years, it expects to receive more than $36 million in federal funds to develop Maine’s public charging infrastructure.

“We’re still in the early stages of electric vehicle adoption,” Siegel said.

Mehr Sher is a Report for America corps member. Additional support for this reporting is provided by the Unity Foundation and donations by BDN readers.

Mehr Sher reports on the Maine environment. She is a Report for America corps member. Additional support for her reporting is provided by the Unity Foundation and donations by BDN readers.