Adoption of California-style EV mandates would spell disaster for Maine


A coalition of environmental groups is trying to force Maine to adopt California-style electric vehicle regulations that would eventually prohibit the sale of gas-powered vehicle in the Pine Tree State.

In mid-July, the coalition consisting of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Conservation Law Foundation and the Sierra Club utilized a little-known process in Maine law in an attempt to compel the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to adopt California’s Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC) and Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) programs. The process requires petitioners to submit 150 signatures from registered voters to an executive branch agency to force the agency to consider a rule change.

The adoption of either program would hurt families and businesses and undermine Maine’s economy.

Advanced Clean Cars Program

The ACC program would require a larger share of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) to be purchased in Maine over time. Starting in 2027, 43% of vehicle sales must be ZEVs, and that requirement ratchets up to 82% by 2032. The ultimate goal of the environmental groups is to adopt a California-style ban on the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE), also known as an ICE ban. California’s ICE ban takes effect in 2035.

Source: Maine Department of Environmental Protection

In its fact sheet for implementation of the ACC program, the Maine DEP modestly notes the program “imposes requirements on vehicle manufacturers to produce and sell vehicles in our state that may have higher upfront costs.” Yet there is no doubt that ZEVs are more expensive to produce and purchase than gas-powered vehicles. And despite many claims that ZEVs are cheaper to own, plenty of data exists to the contrary.

A 2021 study by Anderson Economic Group found numerous downsides to electric vehicle ownership. The report concludes that there are four additional costs to powering ZEVs beyond electricity: the cost of a home charger, commercial charging, EV taxes and so-called “deadhead” miles. It also found that the cost of electricity to power a ZEV exceeds the cost of gasoline to power an internal combustion engine vehicle with reasonable gas mileage.

Considering the average sticker price of a new electric vehicle is about $10,000 higher than the cost of a gas-powered vehicle, it’s far from a sure thing that purchasing a ZEV will cost less to own and operate over the lifetime of the vehicle.

The reality is that owning a vehicle in Maine isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. A report from the organization StreetLightData using 2017 cell phone data found the median length of a one-way commute in Maine was 9.8 miles, the highest in the nation. Mainers need a vehicle and drive comparatively long distances to reach work, school and other necessities.

And when you consider that the Census Bureau estimates that 11.5% of Mainers live in poverty, it’s particularly unconscionable that you would force low-income Mainers to purchase vehicles they simply cannot afford. Whether it’s the sticker price of a ZEV itself or costs associated with upkeep (including electricity and the installation of at-home charging stations), ZEV ownership is unrealistic and out of reach for many Maine families.

The adoption of the ACC program in Maine means poorer families will drive their gas-powered vehicles into the ground in an attempt to avoid the high costs of ZEV ownership for as long as possible. Once their gas-powered vehicles are in disrepair, they’ll be forced to take on massive amounts of debt to purchase a new ZEV. if they don’t, they may opt for no personal vehicle or try to rely on public transportation if it exists in the area where they reside. If it does not, they’ll descend further into poverty since lack of access to reliable transportation is so closely linked to poverty.

Advanced Clean Trucks Program

The Advanced Clean Trucks program would create new ZEV sales requirements for manufacturers of vehicles in weight classes 2b through 8 in Maine. According to the Maine DEP, starting in 2027, manufacturers would “incur deficits for each gasoline or diesel engine vehicle sold to an ultimate purchaser in Maine. These deficits must be met with credits generated by selling medium- and heavy-duty ZEVs to an ultimate purchaser in Maine or purchasing ZEV credits generated by another manufacturer’s sales of ZEVs in Maine.” The sales requirement would be a percentage of the manufacturer’s annual sales volume in Mane for that model year. Like the ACC program, the requirements would increase annually, though the ACT program extends to model year 2035 and beyond.

Source: Maine Department of Environmental Protection

Similar to electric passenger cars, ZEV medium- and heavy-duty trucks are much more expensive to produce and purchase, meaning companies that ship goods or use these vehicles to carry out their business will see their operational costs increase significantly. The ZEV equivalent of a medium- or heavy-duty diesel truck can be upwards of two to three times more expensive to purchase. As a result, consumers will pay more for goods and services from these businesses as the costs are passed onto them.

The rush to make Maine an early adopter of ZEV technology for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles also poses numerous logistical concerns and could result in severe unintended consequences. The plain truth is that the infrastructure simply doesn’t exist to support such a rapid transition. The electric grid cannot currently handle the influx of usage that would come the transition, nor does a network of charging stations exist to support a seamless transition to ZEVs in our supply chain.

If Maine adopts mandates before the grid can handle the demand, or before the charging infrastructure exists to accommodate heavy-duty vehicles, the supply chain in Maine could grind to a halt, resulting in millions in losses for businesses and extravagant prices for consumers. It could also result in severe energy shortages for all Mainers and other users of our regional grid.

“We have a supply chain where the logistics rely on an existing and reliable fuel network that takes moments to refuel. What’s being proposed is a new propulsion system with a refuel network that doesn’t even exist right now. Someone needs to explain how this is going to work and how many billions of dollars need to be spent to put us on pace with how we move freight right now,” Brian Parke of the Maine Motor Transport Association said during a recent segment on the WGAN Morning News.

There’s also a technology issue at play here. According to Parke, ZEV technology doesn’t exist to meet the needs of what some businesses have come to rely on from their diesel counterparts. If it does exist, it’s so prohibitively expensive that the subsidies Maine is talking about rolling out over the coming years would do little to reduce the cost burden on businesses and thus consumers.

Further, Parke noted the reliability of ZEVs in cold climates like Maine’s is poor and can result in range reductions of up to 40%. This makes the need for reliable charging infrastructure even more vital, though the transition to ZEV technology still opens the door to significant supply chain disruptions that do not exist today.

Make Your Voice Heard

It’s clear the organizations behind these proposed changes have not thought much about the implications of forced adoption of ZEVs.

Maine families would be burdened with the high costs of owning and operating a ZEV, and low-income families would be pushed further to the brink of poverty. The electric grid would not be able to handle the increased demand that would come from a full transition, meaning energy shortages and rolling blackouts could become the norm. And the technology simply does not exist to accommodate the needs of society, disrupting the supply chain and ballooning costs for businesses and consumers. The rapid adoption of the ACC and ACT programs would only spell disaster for a large, rural, and comparatively poor state like Maine.

The Maine DEP will hold a public hearing on these rule changes on August 17 at the Augusta Civic Center at 9 a.m. Public comments on the rule changes to adopt the ACC and ACT programs can be submitted by sending an email to Public comments will be accepted until August 28.

Help stand up for working families by submitting a public comment to the address above in opposition to the ACC and ACT programs by August 28.

You can also sign Maine Policy’s petition in opposition to the rules by clicking here.