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Green Hawaii

(page 6 of 12)

Charging Ahead

Clean transportation is our destination. Electric vehicles will get us there.

2012 Wheego LiFe, all-electric vehicle.

Photo: Courtesy of Wheego

Hawaii is getting a new ride, and the excitement is electric. Last December, Mitsubishi delivered the first batch of its 2012 “i” car, a five-door hatchback and its first 100-percent electric vehicle (EV) made for the North America market (see photo on p.15). One year ago, the slightly smaller Mitsubishi iMiEV, as it’s known in Japan, made a big difference in the aftermath of that country's earthquake and tsunami. Gasoline was in short supply but some places had electricity. Mitsubishi provided a fleet of 90 electric vehicles to assist in recovery.

2012 Chevy Volt

Photo: Courtesy of Chevrolet

These vehicles now join the Nissan Leaf (bottom right), Chevy Volt (above), Wheego LiFe (opposite page) and a handful of sleek Tesla roadsters on Hawaii streets. And the promised profusion of public charge spots, installed by companies like Better Place, AeroVironment and homegrown Volta Charging, are popping up across the Islands. 

Why so much effort to drive the electric vehicle into the mass market? The short answer is this: We need to do it. EVs are no longer a futuristic “someday” dream. Rather, they’re an integral part of Hawaii’s move to clean energy, part of meeting our state’s goal to reduce our dependence on oil for ground transportation by 385 million gallons per year by 2030.

2012 Nissan Leaf all-electric vehicle

Photo: Courtesy of Nissan

“Ground transportation accounts for one third of our energy picture,” says Mark Glick, Energy Office administrator in the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism. “We won’t reach our goal exclusively through more fuel-efficient cars operating on gasoline or diesel. If we work with our electric utilities to install an island-wide fast charger network and the federal incentives continue, there’s no reason we can’t replace at least 10 percent of our passenger cars with EVs by 2020.”

What is an Electric Vehicle (EV)?

An Electric Vehicle (EV) runs entirely or partly on electricity.  Examples, such as the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i and Wheego LiFe run exclusively on electricity imported through a plug from the electric grid; Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid that stores energy in its battery but has a gasoline engine that kicks in when needed.

How do plug-in vehicles differ from hybrids?

Hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid, have larger, more efficient batteries than conventional gas-burning vehicles. However, unlike plug-ins, hybrids use gasoline (plus stop-and-go generation) to make all their energy. The next generation of the Prius will include a plug-in hybrid as well. Bottom line: Electric vehicles (EVs) are the future. This time, they are here to stay. They’re our best solution to getting “off the gas” for good.

How, when and where can I charge my EV?

It’s possible to charge an electric vehicle at home or on the road. There are three main ways to do it. Here are the options:

1. On the road, at public charging stations:
By April 2012, approximately 120 charging stations at 100 locations funded by the state of Hawaii’s EV Ready grant program will be up and charging across the state. Locations will include shopping centers and other public spots, plus many local auto dealers and some rental-car locations. Chargers for corporation fleets will likely not be for public use, except for employees. Find an updated list and map of EV charging stations in Hawaii at electricvehicle.hawaii.gov. You can get iPhone and Android apps like PlugShare to locate charge spots. (Note: On-board and smart phone app finders are having some trouble keeping up with the rapid profusion of charge spots.)  

2. At home:
• From a level-1 (120-volt) outlet: Most new plug-in vehicles come with a cord, which plugs into a standard household 120-volt electrical outlet.

• With a level-2 (240-volt) charger: EV owners who want a faster charge can purchase at-home EV charge systems. They can be ordered through the dealer (who may have preferred vendors they can recommend). Or, you can buy a level-2 charge kit online or in person through home-
improvement stores such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. 

Level-2 chargers can mount directly to the wall in your garage or carport. Consult a licensed electrician to assess your home’s electrical capacity and help with county building permits necessary for installation.

How far can I drive before I need to charge up?

That depends on the EV and how you drive. As you might expect, hills take more out of the battery than the flats. A driver with a heavy foot on the “no-gas” pedal uses more juice than an eco-minded driver.

A fully charged Nissan Leaf can travel an average 78 miles before requiring another charge. A Mitsubishi i boasts an average 99 miles on a full charge. The Chevy Volt can travel 74 miles on electricity before it shifts to the gasoline engine. Bottom line: When charged overnight to the recommended 80 percent of battery capacity, most EVs will average 70 miles before needing another charge.

What are the perks for owning an EV?

• More cash in your pocket: As part of its EV-Ready program, the State of Hawaii offers rebates up to 20 percent of the vehicle purchase price, up to a maximum of $4,500 per vehicle (more at electricvehicle.hawaii.gov). New EV buyers can also receive up to $7,500 in federal tax credits (find out more at fueleconomy.gov). Maintenance costs are lower too. Never an oil change!

• Discount Electricity: Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light companies offer a discount rate for EV owners who charge their vehicles “off-peak,” that is, 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays. When you sign up the utility provides a time-of-use meter. Go to heco.com and click on Electric Vehicles to learn more.

• Easier commutes: Your EV license plate lets you cruise in the HOV lane even if you are the only occupant.

• Free parking: EVs park for free at government facilities and City, County and State parking meters.

Photo: Dave Rezendes

Driving for Good

His car is his office. And his office is an EV.

Chaplain William Crockett celebrated Earth Day 2011 in a big way: by putting down a deposit on a brand-new, all-electric Mitsubishi i. An eco-conscious person, Crockett had become frustrated with cost, financial and environmental, of fueling his fun-to-drive but not-so-efficient sports car.

A hospice chaplain for Bristol Hospice Hawaii on Oahu, Crockett makes in-person visits to all his patients. Though his job requires driving up to 50 miles a day, he says he experiences no range anxiety. He charges his car overnight, usually for 7 to 8 hours, using a standard 110-volt (level 1) charger in his home. That gives him 70 to 80 miles of driving before he needs to plug in again.

Today, he enjoys the same handling, pickup and overall performance driving his new Mitsubishi i. He also enjoys the added benefit of no gasoline costs and the environmental peace of mind that comes from owning a zero-emission vehicle.

If he does need a charge away from home, he has options, including a charge spot set up especially for him in the garage of his Punchbowl St. “secondary” office. He also has permission to charge his vehicle using a 110-volt outlet at some buildings he visits. Outlets are usually found on loading docks or where heavy duty lawn equipment is kept.

Crockett saves money by driving an EV. Hawaiian Electric installed a time-of-use meter for his home which gives him discount rates for charging during off-peak hours. “Our home electric bill has hardly gone up … maybe a 10 or 15 percent increase at most,” says Crockett. But that’s a small price to pay, considering he hasn’t paid for gas in almost a year. He also takes advantage of free parking at municipal meters and public garages. “I just tell the attendant it’s an electric vehicle. They write down the license number, say ‘thank you,’ and away we go.”



The State of Hawaii offers rebates of up to 30 percent of the cost of an at-home charging station, including installation, up to a maximum of $500. Visit electricvehicle.hawaii.gov for more information.


Cheaper transportation:

It costs, on average, 11 cents per mile to drive a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt and just 9 cents per mile to drive the Mitsubishi i. Driving a gasoline-powered car costs about twice that: 20 cents per mile for the average Hawaii gasoline-powered car or 15 cents per mile for a fuel-efficient, gas-powered Nissan Versa*.

* Estimates provided in the Hawaii Energy Office’s EV Ready Fact Sheet based on data from www.fueleconomy.gov.


Clean-Burning Ambition:

As part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, our state hopes to get 10,000 Electric Vehicles (and the charging network to support them) on Hawaii’s roads by 2015.


Click and Zoom

Everything you ever wanted to know about becoming an EV owner is at Plug In America (pluginamerica.org). Learn about EV technology, get answers to frequently-asked questions, subscribe to the Plug In America Podcast, check out YouTube videos and more.

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