Why are Maine’s new EV charging stations so expensive?

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Maine’s recent announcement that it plans to install new high-speed electric vehicle (EV) charging stations has gotten a lot of attention across the state. However, the estimated cost of this initiative, averaging $165,384 per charger, raises significant concerns about spending and cost efficiency.

Overview

In a step towards improving Maine’s EV infrastructure, the state is set to unveil 52 new high-speed charging stations across 17 locations over the next year. The initiative was announced by Gov. Janet Mills and aims to support EV drivers in the state. It targets areas such as I-95, U.S. Route 2, Portland, Bangor, and recreational locations frequently traveled by Maine and its visitors.

The $8.5 million project is primarily funded by the federal National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program, which contributes $5.7 million from the bipartisan infrastructure law passed by Congress in 2021. The remaining $2.8 million is sourced from the governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan and settlement funds from the New England Clean Energy Connect project.

Nine locations, including Bangor, Bridgton, Hermon, Newport, Portland, Rumford, and Windham, will receive federal funding and have at least four chargers each. The remaining eight stations will have a minimum of two chargers each.

Funding Breakdown

  • Total Project Cost: Approximately $8.5 million
  • Federal NEVI Program Contribution: $5.7 million
  • Governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan and NECEC Settlement Funds: $2.8 million 

Cost Concerns

While the expansion of Maine’s EV infrastructure is a positive development, the cost per charger is notably higher than industry standards. To put this into perspective, below are some industry-standard costs for Level 3 EV chargers:

  • Ohmhome: Lists the cost of a Level 3 fast charger around $50,000.
  • ACV Auctions: Indicates costs can go up to $75,000.
  • Bacancy Systems: Estimates costs up to $80,000.
  • Beny Electric: States that the average cost of level 3 charging stations is from $50,000 to $150,000.  
  • SparkCharge: Quotes the total cost of equipment and installation can be as high as $200,000 – the highest of the above estimates.

Most sources claim a Level 3 charger is around $80,000. This means Maine’s rough estimate of $165,000 per charger is double the industry average.

Comparative Examples

Looking at other states’ initiatives and estimates, Maine’s cost appears even more inflated. The state of Tennessee paid Freewire $135,000 for a single high-speed charging station. This suggests that Maine is potentially overpaying by $30,000 per unit. The state’s existing contracts with companies that install EV chargers across Maine also offer discounts for large installations such as the one Mills announced this week, meaning you’d expect the cost Maine is prepared to pay to be much lower. 

In addition, Colorado announced in April 2024 that it plans to spend $21,000,000 to expand and install 290 fast-charging ports at 26 sites across the state. This means that Colorado is paying approximately $72,414 per charger–an amount significantly less than what Maine intends to pay per charger. 

New York states that the average cost of a fully installed Level 3 EV charging station is around $50,000, a price which is also notably much lower than what Maine is expected to pay per charger.

Where Is the Extra Money Going?

Given the estimates and examples, it appears Maine is paying way too much for these EV chargers. This raises critical questions:

  • Are there additional costs for infrastructure improvements or labor not typically included in other states’ estimates?
  • Is there a lack of competitive negotiation between the state of Maine and suppliers?
  • Are there administrative overheads or other factors inflating the costs?

Conclusion

The high and seemingly uncompetitive costs associated with this expansion of EV infrastructure in Maine raises serious questions. The difference between industry-standard costs and Maine’s estimate suggests potential inefficiencies and oversights in the planning and execution of this project. Addressing these concerns would save substantial taxpayer dollars. 

Afua Kwarteng is a graduate student at the University of Maine pursuing a dual MBA and Global Policy degree. She graduated from the University of Ghana with a BA in Political Science and Swahili. She is passionate about state and international policy and is serving as Maine Policy Institute’s 2024 communications intern.