EVs in Paradise: A Look at Electric Vehicle Driving in Hawaii

In 2010, Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) announced a Time of Use (TOU) rate adjustment for electric vehicle charging in its service area, which includes Hawaii County (Big Island), Maui County, and Honolulu County. The TOU adjustment means that EV owners who charge their electric vehicles overnight could be eligible for a lower electricity rate, meaning big savings. Just last month, HECO and the state energy office announced regulatory approval to offer differential charging rates for EV owners, helping to assure that quick charging stations don't end up charging customers different rates based on peak load. In short, that helps people driving EVs not to fret about when they do their charging at private charging stations around the state.

Hawaii's aging utility infrastructure is a challenge to the state as its population swells and tourism has rebounded from the economic downturn that started in 2008. A whopping 90% of the island of Oahu (Honolulu County) is powered by industrial generators burning imported diesel fuel, according to HECO. Our governor is fond of saying that our number one export is cash, since we spend roughly $8 billion a year buying foreign oil to power our power plants and fuel our vehicles (to be fair, roughly 1/3 of that total is to power local military exercises).

So why would HECO and the state be pushing the adoption of EV's, since they're effectively still powered by oil?

The answer lies in the state's vision for the future. The oldest and most expensive to run diesel generators on Oahu and Maui are scheduled for closure within the next five years, as the state continues its aggressive pursuit of a broader mix of renewables. The state is aiming for 70% clean energy by 2030 (40% from renewables and 30% from energy efficiency over a 2008 baseline). Interested in what's coming? Check out a list of renewable energy projects in development at the state's renewable energy projects directory.

With a broader mix of clean energy, a climate that is very conducive to EV performance (i.e., not 110 degree Arizona and not negative 40 degree Alaska), and limited geography that virtually eliminates mile-range anxiety, Hawaii is pretty fertile ground for EV infrastructure development and mass market acceptance.

In terms of savings, EVs cost less to run, less to operate, and are proving to be safer than internal combustion engine vehicles. Imagine saving yourself a trip to the Quick Lube 4 or 5 times per year, never needing an oil change ever again. Imagine never stopping at a gas station ever again, breathing in gasoline fumes while trying not to spill flammable and toxic fluids on your hands. Imagine getting the equivalent of 110 miles per gallon for the money you spend on "fuel."

The Time of Use charging rates are just one more perk to help Hawaii residents get off fossil fuels forever. Want to take it a step further? Hawaii's red hot solar industry means that if you can use an EV and some solar, you can truly move toward a sustainable future. But whatever car you drive, make sure your tires are properly inflated...that's the real low hanging fruit to help you save money and protect the environment.