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I'm currently in sunny Hawaii doing research on a book. Having come from Michigan, where gas prices had dropped down to $2.20 a gallon or so before I left, the $3 a gallon signs up at all the local stations here reminded me that transportation fuel is a big cost here in "paradise". Walking around the other day, I had the most obvious brainstorm: Hawaii is the ideal testing ground for electric vehicles. Seriously. Electric car companies should be falling over each other to release EVs here, and the major automakers shouldn't be far behind. You can read why after the jump.
Range: one of the biggest complaints people have about EVs is that you can't go very far without recharging (gasoline cars need to be "recharged", too, but for some reason we've all agreed to build gas stations at every other intersection to accomplish this feat). In Hawaii, though, except on the Big Island, range isn't really an issue. How far can you drive on Oahu before you start coming back? To go all the way around the island is farther than the 40-50 mile range of most EVs for sale today, but not a lot of people here drive from Honolulu to Turtle Bay and back every day. Those that do can stick with their gas burners, for most everyone else, EVs are ideal.

Target audience:
Hawaii citizens are often at the forefront of ecological issues. And why shouldn't they be? The environment here is beautiful and nature is so much a part of one's daily life. From the ocean to the fresh air, the rocks to the deep valleys, people here are passionate about the  Ľaina (loosely: the land) and the environment.

High energy costs
: as I said, gas prices here are high. This is because almost every little bit needs to be transported here. Because gasoline costs an arm and a leg here, the cost difference to drive a standard gasoline car here versus on the mainland makes the EV's cost premium in Hawaii so much less of an issue, especially when you take solar energy into consideration.

Solar
: the sun shines so much here, it's a crime there aren't solar panels atop every roof. Tesla Motors will offer a solar package with their Roadsters to make driving that speed demon net energy positive. Any electric car company that comes to Hawaii should do the same thing, because it's cool and because it's sensible. There are enough people with money here who would gladly buy an EV and a set of solar panels just so they never have to buy gas again. Trust me.

So, that's my reasoning. There are some groups here who are thinking the same thing. If I have time, I'll check up on them while I'm here and see how long it'll be before there's nothing but EVs here.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 10 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      The idea sounds nice. Hawaii Electricar has been working on this for some time now. However one obstacle is often overlooked. Driving over mountains requires a lot of juice. If one stays on the flatter areas, only driving in town, say from Kakaako to Kaimuki, it's okay, but a ton of people commute from outside town. I've tried an electric pickup, and it works okay. Went from Red Hill to Manoa without much trouble. Just don't like the idea of mainland haoles trying to "experiment" with "paradise".
      • 8 Years Ago
      Two things:

      1. The sugar plantations weren't "railroaded"; lower production/labor costs elsewhere drove them out of business.

      2. The H-power plant might be ugly, but it burns trash that would otherwise take up landfill space. How "eco" is that? And it is (YES!) an alternative source of energy. Think about it.

      As for electric cars, automotive history tells us that it was around BEFORE the gasoline engine but, then as now, it is nowhere near as practical or convenient.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Just as computers were invented ahead of it's time. It was not "practical" until the advent of semiconductor microprocessors.

        Electric cars running on Lead-acid batteries are impractical. But know we have lithium ion (as well as new chemistries on the way). Just because it has not been successful before is no reason to say it won't be now that we have newer technology as it's backbone.
      • 8 Years Ago
      While I agree for the reasons you cite that Hawaii would be a better place than most for EVs, I'd guess Hawaii is much too small a market itself for traditional vehicle manufacturers to make electric cars just for it -- they'd never recoup the capital investments. And what's the point of "testing" EVs there, if that's the one and only viable market for them?

      Might be a good niche for these scattered little shops that are making funny looking little EVs though.


        • 1 Year Ago
        7 years later...anyone change their mind about what they commented on?
      • 8 Years Ago
      There are at least 2 electric cars being used in my town of Wahiawa, Hawai'i. As a pedestrian, I find them much quieter and far less smelly than all of the ill-maintained, smoke-belching lumps others drive around. One convenience not mentioned is that while an electric car requires hours to recharge is that this can be done at home while the owner sleeps. Given more new Li-Ion battery/ultra-capacitor research (which can be done here in Hawai'i), these "inconveniences" may even disappear.

      Our abundance of sunshine also helps those willing to shoulder the cost of solar photovoltiac panels get more power from the sun which than could use to recharge electric vehicles. We are sometimes reminded on TV that Hawai'i has the highest percentage of homes using solar water-heating systems, too, which is another indicator of just how much sunlight we get here.

      As for wind- and wave-turbines being a eye sore, I have to wonder what is so bloody attractive about the Kahe Point H-power plant and that more conventional, power-generating, smoke-bomb in Pearl City? Hawai'i can be FAR MORE progressive than it appears to be now. If we hadn't railroaded the sugar plantations out of O'ahu back in 1996-1997, we'd also have had a ready source of from which to produce ethanol with less pollution than the Mainland's corn growers.

      For those of us Hawai'i residents who know what I'm saying, we need to get out of the "bum-buy" (sorry about the spelling) mindset. End of rant...
      • 8 Years Ago
      Sebastian Blanco wrote - "one of the biggest complaints people have about EVs is that you can't go very far without recharging (gasoline cars need to be "recharged", too, but for some reason we've all agreed to build gas stations at every other intersection to accomplish this feat)."

      "Recharging" a gasoline car from empty to full takes all of five minutes, as opposed to the hours it takes to recharge the average electric car.

      One major reason for driving a car, instead of taking public transportation, is convenience. Remove that convenience, and you remove a key factor in making that car attractive to the consumer.

      Still, electric cars for Hawaii do seem to make sense, especially if you include off-shore wind turbines and wave turbines to generate electricity. Whether Hawaiians would accept these eye sores remains to be seen.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I say test because the major automakers love to test new vehicles and not introduce them to the marker rightaway. So, they should be here testing some sort of EV program, like Honda is doing with its FCX and the Spallino family.
      • 8 Years Ago
      this is a nice idea but must we WAIT TILL ALL IS IN PLACE BEFORE WE START FLOODING THE STREETS WITH THESE CARS. THE EMPHASIS SEEMS TO BE MUCH ON AESTHETICS THAN KEEPING THE AIR CLEAN. REPLY ME SOON
      • 8 Years Ago
      The idea of Hawaii going EV for transportation is good so long as the electric generation is "green" as well. Also this idea will work for any island, country, etc. dependent on importing fuel for the autos. However, the taxing bodies need to tax something to make up for lost revenue from lost sales tax on gasoline and auto derivative products.