3 Ways Hawaii is Driving Toward Sustainable Transportation
It will surprise few readers that California is the biggest U.S. state for electric vehicle adoption by quite a wide lead, with more than 245,000 plug-in models on the road. Hawaii doesn’t even make the Top 10, but the island state stands out for another — perhaps even more notable — reason: it is second only to California in EV adoption per capita, according to data from research EV Volumes.
As of December, there were more than 5,000 EVs making their way around the islands, an increase of almost 28 percent from 12 months earlier, based on government statistics. That momentum helped inspire the launch of Drive Electric Hawaii, an alliance that aims to accelerate the electrification of the state’s transportation system.
There are all sorts of reasons that EVs make sense in a place where there aren’t any gasoline or diesel reserves and where range anxiety doesn’t run rampant. Cities and counties across the archipelago are making the link between electric transportation and Hawaii’s ability to reach its goal of being powered completely by renewable energy by 2045.
"This effort will play a meaningful part toward the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative objective of increasing energy security and self-sufficiency by eliminating Hawaii’s dependence on imported fuels for both electricity and ground transportation," the organization wrote late last year in a memorandum of understanding released when the initiative launched.
But shepherding that transition will require breaking with traditional policies regarding land use, and allocation of infrastructure, according to a panel of experts last week at the VERGE Hawaii conference.
"The biggest thing we can do as government is make sure we can incentivize it," said Ed Sniffen, deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Transportation. "We can’t tell people what to do, but we can incentivize it by making sure the charging stations are there and by potentially putting in tax credits for it. It’s the best way to push the penetration."
For example, EV charging infrastructure is being deployed at airports across the region, laying the groundwork for changes to rental car fleets. They’re also being required as part of new developments and being encouraged at schools, Sniffen said.
Moreover, local startup incubator Element Excelerator is working with a company called Freewire Technologies, which makes EV charging stations that can be moved from location to location, to make charging infrastructure more broadly available. "That allows property owners and even utilities and government agencies to not have to put in the necessary infrastructure for a charging station until they know it’s really going to work there," said Aki Marceau, Hawaii projects deployment at Elemental, during the panel session.
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