LEWISTON — Recharging electric vehicles in Maine is getting easier, with the number of public chargers expected to more than triple in the next few years.
The Department of Energy, which tracks the number of charging sites in the country, shows 435 sites in Maine with 915 ports, or plugs available to the public.
Lewiston rolled out its first “fast charger” site Wednesday at On The Way gas station and convenience store at 1930 Lisbon Road.
Another direct current fast-charge station is set for installation at the Irving Oil station at exit 75 off the Maine Turnpike in Auburn later this summer.
Michael Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine, said it has been in the works for more than a year and was part of a second round of funding it administers to help defray much of the cost of the charging stations — typically about 80% of the cost of the equipment and installation under an initiative called Recharging Maine.
Funding has come from several sources, including a $21 million payout to Maine from the Volkswagen settlement for allegations it violated the Clean Air Act, the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line settlement and most recently President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will see an additional $15 million to $20 million for new charging stations across the state.
Efficiency Maine estimates that the new federal funds will result in 150 more direct current fast-charge ports at 60 sites around the state, that’s in addition to the 217 fast-charge stations already in operation.
“We are expecting to supplement those high-speed chargers with approximately 1,300 new level 2 ports to facilitate community charging with the balance of the federal funds,” Stoddard said.
Direct current fast chargers convert alternating current, or AC, to direct current, or DC, within the charging station, and deliver it directly to the vehicle battery, which is why they charge faster. But they are also significantly more expensive and that’s why many are subsidized and cost more for customers to use.
PlugShare, a free website that connects EV drivers with charge stations all over the country, lists 47 public EV charge stations in Lewiston and Auburn, with nine fast-charge stations, most of which are on Center Street at various car dealers such as Lee Nissan, Rowe Ford/Hyundai and Emerson Chevrolet. Other charge stations are at Bates College in Lewiston, Central Maine Community College in Auburn and the city of Auburn parking garage at 60 Court St., but they are level 2 chargers.
Auburn does not charge to use its six charging stations — two on the ground floor and four on the fourth floor — but many charging stations do charge a fee, which varies based on factors like the type of charger, the cost of electricity and cost to maintain the chargers.
Motor Trend magazine puts the average cost of recharging at 11 cents per kilowatt hour, with fast chargers costing an average 41 cents per kilowatt hour and as much as 50 cents per kilowatt hour for Tesla superchargers. Recharging away from home can costs EV drivers the equivalent of filling up an internal-combustion car, although most of the time it’s about half the cost or less, according to the Department of Energy. Various factors can affect the total cost and many recharge stations charge by the minute and not by the kilowatt hour, making it even more confusing.
Efficiency Maine said the big push will come in the next few years as $19 million from the infrastructure law, which will be bid out in successive rounds, is released. The emphasis on high-speed chargers will be along Route 1 from Freeport to Ellsworth every 50 miles, where Stoddard said the biggest gaps exist along the coastal route. Additional chargers will be installed in and around Augusta and Bangor.
“We’ll be doing this for another three or four years with these funds and it’s going to be another $15-$20 million worth of investments,” he said. “So, it’s going to really dramatically increase the amount of coverage that we have.”
Types of Electric Vehicle Chargers
Level 1 Charger
Voltage: 120 volt AC
Power output: 1 kilowatt
Estimated charge time from empty: 40-50 hours
Estimated range per hour of charge: 2-5 miles
Typical locations: home
Level 2 Charger
Voltage: 208-240 volts AC
Power output: 7-19 kilowatts
Estimated charge time from empty: 4-10 hours
Estimated range per hour of charge: 10-20 miles
Typical locations: home, workplace, public
DC Fast Charging
Voltage: 400-1,000 volts DC
Power output: 50-350 kilowatts
Estimated charge time from empty: 20-60 minutes
Estimated range per hour of charge: 180-240 miles
Typical locations: public
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation
Estimated charge time and range is for Battery Electric Vehicles