09/13/2017

Electric vehicles will rule the road

By Jeff Mikulina and Brennon Morioka

The future is quietly arriving on roads across Hawaii. Electric vehicles — increasingly powered by renewable energy — are not only fun to drive, they are helping our state achieve its commitment to a clean energy future.

National Drive Electric Week — Sept. 9-17 — is a chance to step back and see how and what we are doing to electrify transportation in Hawaii.

As members of the Drive Electric Hawaii initiative, we believe electric vehicles (EVs) will grow dramatically in popularity as vehicle costs decrease. Signs are everywhere, from traditional automakers offering a greater diversity of electric vehicle models, to technology giants working on autonomous or self-driving models that will be electric.

Drive Electric Hawaii seeks to promote use of electric vehicles, cut fossil fuel transportation and add more renewable energy through collaboration on education, promotion, advocacy and infrastructure to make electric mobility available for all. Our committee includes community organizations, all the state’s electric utilities and state agencies dealing with energy and transportation.

While we may have different missions and goals — and may not always agree on every particular about electrification of transportation or how to achieve it — we agree on the many positives that can come with all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles and even bicycles and scooters. Here are some:

Home finances. Electric vehicles are no longer just a flashy toy for the wealthy. Many models are moving into a more affordable price range, and current incentives make some cost competitive with gas-burning cars. While a family’s electric bill may go up a bit with home charging, no more gas station stops and far less maintenance almost always adds up to an overall energy cost savings.

Environment. Electric vehicles can run on the sun and other sources of renewable electricity. Even if they are charged from the power grid — which is getting greener every year — electric vehicles will usually contribute less greenhouse gas per mile than gas cars. Plus, no tailpipe or oil drips means no neighborhood emissions and a cleaner ocean. EVs align with state goals to use only clean energy by 2045.

Helping achieve 100 percent renewable. Electric vehicles charging during the day will help put our abundant solar energy to use. What’s more, electric vehicles are essentially batteries on wheels. When plugged in to the grid, these cars can help the utility manage the ups and downs of our renewable energy supply.

Finally, ask anyone who has sat behind the wheel of an electric vehicle and they will tell you how fun the cars are to drive, with greater pick-up and a smoother driving experience. As more public charging stations become more available and battery technology improves, “range anxiety” is quickly disappearing.

Electric vehicles are helping to bring our energy future forward, cleanly and quietly.

National Drive Electric Week, started in 2011 as National Plug-In Day, is a nationwide celebration to raise awareness of the widespread availability of plug-in vehicles and highlight the benefits of driving electric. Considering going electric? Come to the EV event noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at Kapiolani Community College, or see driveelectrichi.com to learn more.

Jeff Mikulina is executive director of Blue Planet Foundation, and Brennon Morioka is Hawaiian Electric Co.’s general manager of electrification of transportation.