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Electric Car Advocates Tout Benefits in Portland

After dying out in the 1990s, the electric car is back: That was the message being delivered in downtown Portland this morning. Car dealers, environmental advocates, the energy industry and government officials were all represented at a news conference next to one of Portland’s busiest traffic routes.

Maine 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree touts electric cars in Portland today, in front of her own Chevy Volt.

With the speakers sometimes having to raise their voices to be heard above the traffic, Steve Linnell couldn’t resist taking at least one crack against the noisy combustion engine. “Electric vehicles are a lot quieter than those vehicles that are behind me,” he said.

Linnell is director of transportation and energy planning with the Greater Portland Council of Governments. He runs a program known as Maine Clean Communities, part of a nationwide partnership between government and industry to reduce petroleum consumption in the transportation sector. “The United States imports 60 percent of the petroleum it uses, and two-thirds of that goes into transportation,” he said.

Linnell’s group is currently involved in a planning exercise with 10 other states in the Northeast and about 13 other coalitions that aims to remove the barriers to the development of the electric car.

In addition to being quieter and cleaner than regular cars, Marc Lausier says they’re also a lot cheaper. He drives a Nissan LEAF, which can go about 100 miles on a fully-charged battery.

“The electric motor is 90 percent efficient, so the electric use is minimal,” he says. “And I just mentioned driving the car 1,000 miles ended up costing me $32, so if you if you translate that to 10,000 miles a year, that’s $320 to drive 10,000 miles–very inexpensive.”

Tom Porter: “What’s it like performance-wise? Is it harder in the winter?”

Marc Lausier: “The cold weather was an issue with the batteries, but this car has got a cold-weather package: It has a battery-warmer, so that’s sort of a non-issue now.”

Lausier’s is an all-electric vehicle, meaning it’s entirely battery-powered. So, as long he remembers to plug it in every night, he can go a 100 miles a day in it.

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