Friday, February 26, 2021

Raymond and Windham go green with electric vehicles, cutting costs and contributing to energy efficiency

Many municipalities across Maine and beyond, including
the towns of Raymond and Windham, are incorporating
electric vehicles for town employee use. The cost savings
are vast, benefiting taxpayers in more ways than one. Seen
here is the Town of Raymond's new Chevrolet Bolt.
By Lorraine Glowczak

“Electric, steam and internal combustion engines were all in contention as a means to power early automobiles,” said Raymond Town Manager Don Willard, who enjoys historical trivia. “It was the internal combustion engine that became the preferred power source. Can you imagine where we would be today if the electric option had been selected back then and developed for the past 100 plus years?”

Willard’s discovery seems correct. According to the Federal Department of Energy, the first small-scale electric engine was invented in the 1830s, rising to popularity in the early 20th century “accounting for a third of all vehicles on the road” in the United States. But it was the mass production of the Model T Ford that made the gas-powered internal combustion engine more affordable, causing the attraction to the electric car to wane.

Fast forward 100 years and the tide is turning once again. But this time around, the more affordable mode of transportation is the cost-efficient electric vehicle (EV). Many municipalities across Maine and beyond, including the towns of Raymond and Windham, are incorporating the EV for town employee use. The cost savings are vast, benefitting taxpayers in more ways than one.

The Windham Town Council approved a three-year lease of a 2017 Nissan Leaf on April 25, 2017, purchasing the vehicle on July 16, 2020. 

“This was a project identified in the Town’s Energy Plan adopted in May 2011,” said Windham’s Environmental and Sustainability Coordinator Gretchen Anderson. “The Nissan Leaf utilizes a 30-kWh lithium-ion battery with an estimated mile range average just over 106 MPG, dependent on driving style and outdoor temperature.”

Anderson said that the Town of Windham estimates operating savings ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 annually based on an analysis prepared by the Greater Portland Council of Governments at the time of Council approval. “Actual savings fluctuate within that range based on the cost of gasoline and the number of miles driven,” she said.

While Windham has been utilizing the cost savings of an EV since 2017, Raymond has recently purchased their first EV approximately three weeks ago and are looking forward to the same cost savings.

“We purchased a new 2020 Chevrolet Bolt at the first of February,” said Raymond’s Communication Director, Kaela Gonzalez. “The car will be available to all town employees in any department to take trainings or run town related errands thus reducing our mileage reimbursement costs which is done at the Federal rate. The cost to charge the car is estimated to be roughly $500/year according to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

Gonzalez also said the average gas mileage of Raymond’s current fleet of light vehicles is around 12.5 mpg. “If the Bolt were to be driven 3,300 miles per year replacing our current municipal vehicle miles, we would save enough money on fuel alone to offset the operational costs of the Bolt for the entire year.”

Another positive regarding Raymond’s recent purchase is the resale value down the road.

“We have a saying in Raymond that we seek to achieve revenue neutral solutions when providing services,” Willard said. “The Bolt acquisition will actually be revenue positive for us. We were able to purchase the Bolt at a very low cost due to the rebates offered by Efficiency Maine and incentives offered by Chevrolet,” Willard said. “The original MRSP for the vehicle was $39,895 and after incentives the cost was reduced to $16,562.75. After four to five years the residual value will be between $21,000 to $22,000. The town will thereby recover the initial purchase cost and perhaps $4,500 to $5,000 more in addition to benefiting from transportation cost savings.”

The purchase of an EV is beneficial to the residents of both towns, not only monetarily but in terms of environmental sustainability as well.

In Anderson’s research that is based on EPA’s latest fuel economy and emission rate data, a gasoline vehicle emits more than 5 tons of carbon dioxide per year. “That’s four times as much as carbon emissions as an EV using power from the electric grid,” Anderson said, reflecting on her inquiry. She also said that, overall, driving on electricity in Maine produces the global warming emissions equivalent to a gasoline- powered vehicle that gets 102 miles per gallon.

Additionally, both towns are invested in pursuing other environmentally sustainable projects with the incorporation of LED streetlights and the use of solar panels in Windham.

The Windham Town Council considers sustainability and the environment a priority, with the utilization of an electric vehicle being one of many projects the Town has pursued,” Anderson said. “The Town is reviewing additional alternative energy vehicle procurement through Efficiency Maine and factory rebates.”

Willard and Gonzalez are also grateful for the generous incentive provided by Efficiency Maine and see this as a demonstration project to highlight the viability of electric powered vehicles. The longer-term plan is to turn the after-use sale proceeds of the Bolt into the purchase of an EV pickup truck or SUV for full-time use by the Code Enforcement Officer.

Both towns have an electric car charging station at their respective town halls, and they are open to the public. Along with Windham and Raymond, charging locations can be found on Efficiency Maine’s Charging Station Locator.

If Windham residents are interested in the energy efficiency work being completed in Windham, consider volunteering for the Town’s Energy Advisory Committee. Applications can be found on the town website.

If Raymond residents would like to learn more about electric vehicles and the town’s other energy saving projects, Willard invites them to call his office at 207-655-4742 ext. 131.

“We now are at the Model T stage of the electric car,” Willard said. “And it is only going to improve from here, both economically and environmentally.” <

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