Plug-ins Help Hawaii Push for Oil Independence

By · August 07, 2012

LEAF Hawaii

Plug In America president Dan Davids stands with a Nissan LEAF in Honolulu.

The basic conditions have always been in place for Hawaii to become a leader in electric vehicles. All that's been missing are the cars and the infrastructure to charge them. Now that full-speed consumer EVs have been on the market for more than a year and a half, it's up to groups like the Maui Electric Vehicle Alliance and the state's EV Ready program to make broad EV adoption a reality.

It's important to note that Hawaii has the most expensive gasoline in the nation. Currently, the average price per gallon stands at $4.12 per gallon, 50 cents higher than the national average. But electricity is also very expensive at 32 cents per kilowatt-hour (nearly three times the national average.) Hawaii imports more than 90 percent of its energy each year, which is part of the reason why the state is working to achieve 70 percent clean energy by 2030, through a combination of efficiency improvements and renewable energy generation.

In 2010, the state began offering a $5,000 rebate for electric cars, part of a total $2 million in funding geared toward stimulating the purchase of more than 450 EVs and installation of 279 charging stations. Combined with the $7,500 federal incentive, the money made Hawaii the nation's most hospitable state for EV buyers, providing up to $12,500 in discounts off the starting price of a plug-in. The program was a understandably a hit, with the last of the funds having been claimed in May.

Based out of the University of Hawaii Maui College, Maui EVA was the only university program to receive a grant from the DOE's Clean Cities Community Readiness program, which distributed $8.5 in funds to 16 projects in 2011. Recently, the program began collecting and posting testimonials from Hawaiian EV drivers in an effort to make the experience less foreign. So what's it like to drive electric in the Aloha state?

The limited land area of Hawaii's islands make them intuitively well-suited for limited-range EVs, but providing charging infrastructure sufficient to overcome range anxiety is still a challenge. “The need to plug-in daily is a problem for a rental car patron,” wrote first-time driver Brian Konyk, who rented a Nissan LEAF from one of several Enterprise Rental locations offering EVs on the main island of Oahu. Though there are more than 50 public chargers available on the island, Konyk wasn't always able to find an available station when he needed one. “I was always thinking about where I could get my next charge,” he wrote.

For LEAF owners who charge at home and follow a more regular transportation routine, the experience can be a lot simpler―and cleaner. The average Hawaiian drives less than 8,000 miles per year according to Bureau of Transportation statistics (about 20 percent less than the national average), meaning that with some planning and analysis of driving habits, an EV should be sufficient for most drivers there. “The LEAF has adequate range to handle nearly all of our trips,” wrote Chuck Carletta of Maui, who recently expanded his home solar setup to accommodate a new Nissan LEAF. “We have put 7,000 miles on the LEAF so far and have only charged it four times at public charging stations.”

With electricity prices so much higher in Hawaii than in other states, the ultimate incentive to drive electric comes from having a photo voltaic setup to power your vehicle. Since installing photo voltaic panels capable of generating 13 kWh per day, Carletta has seen his monthly electrical bill drop to less than $20 per month. “We are now producing more electricity than we use and the surplus goes back in to the electric grid.” After the family brought home its Nissan LEAF, their monthly gasoline costs fell from about $230 per month to about $50 (thanks to two lesser-used gas vehicles.)

For Hawaii, EVs represent a key step in a larger push to cut dependence on petroleum-based fuels in favor of efficient, renewable energy. Since the state currently gets most of its electricity from diesel power plants, EV adoption would only go so far to relieve that burden. But as the state and its residents work to transition more and more of their energy production to renewable sources, electric vehicles can act to multiply the emissions benefits gained from such a shift.


· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

So I have to pay for someone else's electric car. Nice! 6 billion dollar pension deficit and they spend our hard-earned tax dollars giving middle class people cheap foreign cars. Sounds great!

· · 5 years ago

Yes, it is great. Better than me having to chip in my share of 43 billion for federal tax breaks that go into the pockets of oil companies, while also financing the presence of 2 naval carrier groups permanently on patrol in the Persian Gulf, just so good ol' boys can ride around cheaply in their monster trucks while polluting the air. Give me the clean, sustainable and electrified Hawaiian state transportation model any day of the week. Surf's up!

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 5 years ago

I in general don't like gov't subsidies either - I was on the phone all day trying to get my representives to cancel the banker bailout during the Bush II administration. But since I pay a whopping amount of income taxes, the fact that I have to pay a little less each year I purchase an electric vehicle, (<<== notice that??? Its not as if I'm taking money from the gov't, its that they're not ROBBING me quite so much on a year I buy an electric car), for those who consider it a wasted effort, I say, its one of the least wasteful things our gov't does.

· · 5 years ago

" . . . for those who consider it a wasted effort, I say, its one of the least wasteful things our gov't does."

Precisely right, Bill.

Hey, while we're on the subject of EVs with surfboards (that's what I originally logged onto this thread to chat about,) here's one that would look good in Hawaii: A woody themed Mitsubishi i with a surfboard on top . . .

Notice that the faux woodgrain lines are actually inspired by circuit board traces. Too cool!

· · 5 years ago

The only solution that make sense is to go hydrogen instead of fossil fuel. There is sufficient sun to power everything but they just need to adapt the impedance of the sun into a 24/24 hydrogen impedance transformation. Actually they throw out lot of money into a very bad solution that is to give money for a battery leaf that will consume electricity that come from a diesel electric plant. These cars will draw electricity at night and all the power will come from diesel. They won't charge during the day when the electricity can come from solar power. If they do hydrogen during the day they can use their solar power at full throttle but if they try to use solar to recharge battery they will discover that people recharge at night instead. These people that buy subsidized cars will regret them in 2015 when efficient hydrogen cars will be put for sale.

This state flourish mainly from tourism and military station and farming and they don't know anything about energy. They use inneficient diesel for electricity generation probably because they already had a diesel supply from the pearl harbor port so they never bothered to find another thing. Even the sun is not exploited to the maximum possibility.

· · 5 years ago

I agree with your concern about solar only working during the day. This means the solar energy needs to be stored if it is to be used during the night. The key, then is to find the most effective means of storing that energy.
The problem with creating hydrogen is that that process is only about 25% efficient (loses 75% of the energy) while other storage methods are a lot more efficient. Use of batteries, for example, is over 90% efficient. Pump storage is also very efficient.
I guess one solution for using BEVs with solar would be to promote workplace charging so that folks can charge their EVs during the day instead of at night.

· leec (not verified) · 5 years ago

If the energy from the Kahuku wind farm were stored in EV batteries, they could top up with solar power during the day but avoid fossil fuels altogether.

· Tom Mac (not verified) · 5 years ago

Hey Ben

Great Photo thanks for sharing

As a quickly aging surfer I would say that this one TINY surfboard on a very small car.
Likely you could KITESURF with that board but unless you are Kelly Slater or under 90 lbs doubt you could really surf

I am very frustrated with no Roof Rack for my Volt:
Anyone know any solutions?


· · 5 years ago

I can't take credit for that iMiev photo , Tom, other than linking it from an internet source. But thanks. While I have a soft spot for surfing culture - and woodies - you'd have to pay me vast sums of long green to get on one of those boards out in the water. I'd rather watch.

It was Newt Gingrich who sniped that the Volt couldn't accommodate a gun rack, but a quick internet search did bring up this Volt roof rack . . .

As for solar and wind, Hawaii is one of those perfect places that is able to utilize as much of this sort of power as possible. And, yes, while the solar electrolysis hydrogen idea looks neat, the same amount of PV panels generating electricity for charging batteries or feeding the grid is going to give far greater returns.

· Tom (not verified) · 5 years ago


Thanks I will check that out for transport
Hawaii sounds like a dream with tons of sunshine
And trade winds daily

Use EV as your backup sources/storage of renewables??


· · 5 years ago

Tons of sunshine can be a dream, Tom. I think it was something like 86° F in Honolulu today. Here in Tucson we also had tons of sunshine today, but it topped out at 107° F! We get that super nice Hawaii-like mild sun down here too, but we're a few months off from that right now and, needless to say, always rather far from any ocean front property.

I've got a Leaf I'm borrowing from a friend for another week, while he's out of town. No, I haven't tried anything as radical as attempting to power other large devices from the battery.

If anything, I'm playing it safe right now, due to the heat wave we're experiencing. I charged it up last night via 110V, but unplugged about 7 hours into what would have been 9 hours for a maximum charge (didn't do this by programming from the car, but simply unplugged when I woke up, figuring I was fairly close to about 80%.) I'm currently doing this so I won't be putting additional stress on the battery, by having it sit outside in the intense sun fully charged while I'm at work.
Milder weather (under 100°) is expected to be back by next week.

I took the long route home from work today and, with about a 3/4 full battery, experimented with some hyper-milling driving techniques. Although the Guess-O-Meter wasn't going to tell me anything definitive, I was happy to see myself gaining a mile or two every so often while regenerative break on the downward slopes of hills. I'm going to miss this thing after I give it back to the owner. :-(

· Merlyn Hollie (not verified) · 5 years ago

Wind is notoriously an unreliable source of energy and few people live in places where they can make use of it, but this is not true for solar energy. For the wind turbine to work effectively you need wind but this doesn't mean that the wind turbine they make you build doesn't work if there's wind. It's probably not much and it's not enough alone. Also build solar panels is definitely possible, and the energy you get depends on many factors, but they can definitely help you reduce the power bill, and the solar energy is more reliable and constant than the wind Merlyn Hollie

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