12/15/2017

Why Hawaii's electric car nirvana is a tailpipe dream

This story appeared Hawaii News Now on Friday, December 15, 2017

Climate comedy
On Tuesday, all four mayors in Hawaii got together and signed a proclamation outlawing your car. Well, in spirit, if not in actual law. In a telegenic photo op aboard the Hokulea, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, Kauai County Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr. and Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe, standing in for Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, signed a pledge that all public and private vehicles will be fully electric by 2045.

Not going to happen. There are more than 1,233,523 vehicles registered in Hawaii, according to the Hawaii State Data Book. More now, because the most recent year reflected there is 2015. Of these, 1 million are privately owned passenger vehicles, the rest are fleet vehicles.

Right now, there are exactly 6,607 registered electric vehicles. To meet the mayors’ goal, we have to replace 1,226,916 gasoline cars in 28 years. That’s 43,818 per year.

Maybe, if every new car purchased, from this day forward, is electric, and no one moves to Hawaii with a gas-powered car, we’ll get there. Except, we don’t necessarily buy 44,000 new cars a year. New car registrations have been hovering around 58,000 the past three years, according to the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association. In a weak economy, such as 2009 to 2011, we buy around 33,000 new cars. And the needle isn’t moving on our purchases of electric vehicles. According to HADA, sales of hybrid and electric vehicles actually declined 1.8 percent in 2016, even though new car sales overall were up 2.4 percent. We’re feeling flush, buying new cars, and yet we’re still buying fewer electric vehicles than in the previous year.

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