Gov. Janet Mills launches program giving away rebates to new electric car buyers

Governor Janet Mills announces Maine’s new Electric Vehicle Accelerator Program at Brunswick Landing on Friday, August 30th.

AUGUSTA – The week started with the Maine Legislature passing a bond bill to borrow money just to keep up with Maine’s needed road repairs and ended with Governor Janet Mills announcing a state program to provide millions of dollars in rebates to individuals purchasing electric cars in Maine.

At a press conference at Brunswick Landing on Friday, Mills announced a multi-million-dollar project to provide rebates to Mainers purchasing electric vehicles dubbed the Electric Vehicle (EV) Accelerator Program.

Using funds from the $5.1 million award Maine received in a settlement from VW in 2017, the program will offer rebates of $1,000-$2,000 on a select group of cars, including the Tesla Model 3; BMW i3 & i3s; Honda Clarity Electric; Volvo S60 PHEV; Nissan Leaf and more.

The program will be administered by Efficiency Maine Trust and car buyers will receive the rebates instantly at their automobile dealer. Only new vehicles will be eligible for rebates.

The program will also include an enhanced rebate for Mainers who qualified for LIHEAP, Maine’s low-income heating assistance program, in the previous year. For them, the rebate will run from $1,500-$3,000.

A significant focus of the program also appears to be in moving state government entities to electric vehicles, with rebates for Maine governmental entities ranging from $2,000-$7,500 on the same vehicles.

Individuals are limited to purchasing two electric vehicles per year for personal use. Businesses, non-profits and Maine governmental entities are limited to purchasing ten vehicles per year. The limits may be waived, in writing, by Efficiency Maine Trust in its sole discretion.

“We’re excited to be offering a program that will make it more accessible for Mainers to not only save at the pump, but to Get into an extremely fun ride that is also kind to the climate. This is what the future of driving in Maine looks like,” said Mac Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine Trust.

But Maine’s notoriously harsh winter weather may present challenges for widespread adoption of electric vehicles. A study released in early 2019 by AAA, the North American motor club with more than 58 million members, revealed that cold weather can cut the range of electric cars by over 40 percent. That loss of range in Maine’s coldest months could limit some of the vehicles eligible for rebates to a range of well under 100 miles, with at least one of the vehicles, the Smart EQ fortwo, looking at a range of about 35 miles in cold weather.

In the announcement, Governor Janet Mills touted the program as a way to reduce Maine’s consumption of fossil fuels.

“By increasing our use of electric vehicles, Maine is making substantial and meaningful progress in transitioning us away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources, which will help slash carbon emissions, combat climate change, and save Maine people money,” said Mills.

Maine ranks 27th in total energy consumption among the 50 states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, but the state only consumes 0.4% of the United States overall energy for transportation, placing Maine among the ten lowest states for transportation energy consumption. That ranking from 2017 comes despite the reality of Maine’s expansive size and sprawling road systems.

While Maine may rank low in energy consumption for transportation, the state also typically ranks in the lower half, or worse, among states for the condition of our infrastructure.

Often attributed to Maine’s harsh weather and unwillingness of lawmakers to prioritize infrastructure spending, Maine will once again seek to sell bonds to provide funds to maintain our roads and bridges. The push for the most recent bond came after state lawmakers passed a state budget that increased overall spending by more than 10% but denied any new funding in Maine’s transportation budget.

You can learn more about the new program announced by Governor Mills by clicking here.

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