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Electric-Vehicle Swell Underway in Hawaii

The state’s electric vehicle fleet was up 27.8 percent in November from a year earlier, with 5,009 total registered EVs hitting the streets.

(TNS) — Some 5,000 electric vehicles are registered to run on Hawaii roads now, and the state, clean-energy advocates and electrical utilities are working to expand the fleet.

Hawaii’s electric vehicle fleet was up 27.8 percent in November from a year earlier, with 5,009 total registered EVs hitting the streets, according to the latest EV report from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

EV proponents in the state are working to ramp up the growth by adding charging stations and investing in increased public education.

Shem Lawlor, clean-energy transportation director at the Blue Planet Foundation, said he expects the market to spike in the next five years as charging infrastructure and battery technology improve.

“We expect demand for electric vehicles to grow exponentially in the next five years, putting increasing strain on public charging facilities, especially in areas like Honolulu where a significant segment of the population live in rental or multifamily units and are unable to charge at home,” Lawlor said. “In the next five to 10 years, we expect to see electric vehicle models in all vehicle categories that are cost-competitive with conventional vehicles without any subsidies and offer better performance and lower fuel and maintenance costs.”

Hawaii is second in the nation after California in the number of EVs registered per thousand people, according to DBEDT’s November Hawaii Energy Facts & Figures. Some 2.94 of every 1,000 registered light cars and trucks in Hawaii are EV.

More than half of Hawaii’s 70 dealerships are selling electric cars, said Dave Rolf, executive director of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association.

Electric Vehicles in Hawaii

The numbers of electric vehicles in Hawaii every November since 2006:

2006: 123
2007: 162 31.7 percent
2008: 170 4.9 percent
2009: 173 1.7 percent
2010: 158 -8.6 percent
2011: 563 256.3 percent
2012: 1,098 95.0 percent
2013: 2,054 87.0 percent
2014: 3,099 50.8 percent
2015: 3,919 26.4 percent
2016: 5,009 27.8 percent

Source: State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism

Rolf said the state creates a perfect situation for renewable-powered vehicles because of incentives and shorter resident commutes compared with the mainland.

“We have a lot of public policy that promotes the use of electric vehicles,” he said.

Incentives for EVs include free parking at state and county government lots and parking meters. EVs are also exempt from high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane restrictions. The state’s dominant electrical utility, Hawaiian Electric Co., has a time-of-use rate program for EV owners that offers discounted rates if customers charge their EVs during off-peak times.

Rolf said public education was key to moving consumers away from gas-powered vehicles. Expanding the use of EVs is one way Hawaii can keep money from being sent out of state to pay for fossil fuels, he added.

“If we could develop that fuel in the islands, auto dealers know that money would stay home,” he said. “Keep that dollar circulating here in the island instead of going off island.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Hawaii has spent $5.4 billion on petroleum so far this year.

Hawaii has been actively working to cut back its petroleum diet. Gov. David Ige in 2014 signed a law requiring 100 percent of electrical utilities’ power to come from renewable sources by 2045. But as the state places ambitious goals on the electricity sector, the majority of the fossil fuels brought to the islands goes to transportation.

The transportation sector accounts for almost two-thirds of the state’s fossil fuel consumption, according to Blue Planet Foundation’s energy report card for Hawaii. Cars and light trucks used 53 percent of the transportation sector’s demand.

EVs will become more important in helping the state stably reach its renewable-energy goal. That’s because EV batteries are a way to store electricity generated when the wind and sun are strong and use that power at other times.

“With future EV adoption levels, the significant amount of battery energy storage could potentially contribute to balancing the power grid as more intermittent renewables are added and less power is generated from fossil fuels,” according to a study from the Electric Vehicle transportation sector.

State agencies and energy groups announced a partnership Tuesday that seeks to boost the growth of electric-powered vehicles in Hawaii. The groups said the initiative would help increase electric vehicle charging opportunities and work to improve EV-related policies, regulations and laws.

The initiative’s members include the Blue Planet Foundation; state Department of Transportation; state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; state Division of Consumer Advocacy; Hawaiian Electric Cos.; Kauai Island Utility Cooperative; Rocky Mountain Institute; and Ulupono Initiative.

Margaret Larson, energy analyst for the state Energy Office, said one project the coalition will focus on is to campaign for Hawaii to receive some funds from the national settlement with Volkswagen. The Volkswagen settlement could be used to support EV charging stations across the state, Larson said.

The Volkswagen settlement includes a provision for funding of zero-emission vehicle infrastructure where VW will pay $2 billion nationally. The funds will go to creating accessible zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and will go to educating the public about zero-emission vehicles such as EVs.

HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg said the electrical utility is focusing on building the infrastructure for more EVs in Hawaii as it works to add two more fast chargers by the end of the year, at HECO’s Ward Avenue facility and Waianae Mall.

“More are coming next year, including North Shore, Iwilei and Waimea on the Big Island as most likely areas. This is all part of Hawaiian Electric Companies’ contribution to this coordinate effort,” Rosegg said.

Arden Penton, spokeswoman for the electric vehicle charging company Volta, said the company has noticed tremendous EV growth in the state.

“Volta is now operating in a handful of states, and we still get the highest utilization rates from our Hawaii network,” she said. “We only expect to see EV penetration skyrocket here in Hawaii.”

©2016 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Visit The Honolulu Star-Advertiser at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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