Driving Experience

Electric vehicles

Electric vehicles – also known as EVs – are a range of cars, trucks and other road-ready vehicles that “plug-in” to use electricity either as their sole fuel or a first fuel backed by gasoline.


Most vehicles on the road today are still powered by an internal combustion engine fueled by gasoline or diesel.


A hybrid electric vehicle has an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, with only one of these engines directly powering the vehicle at a time. An HEV doesn’t “plug-in.”


A plug-in hybrid has a larger battery than an HEV and must be plugged-in to be recharged from an electrical outlet or a charging station.


A battery electric vehicle is powered entirely by electricity stored in its battery, which is the sole power source for its electric motor. A BEV must be plugged into an external power source to recharge.



EV Cars on the Market


Hawaii EV Dealers and Showrooms by County



Electric Vehicles and the Environment

You may be asking how clean an EV can be if it is charged from an electric grid that depends on fossil fuel generation. It’s a good question.

Research shows that even when electricity is generated from coal, an EV drives cleaner than a gasoline or diesel vehicle. As Hawaii increases its renewable energy generation – which now averages 26 percent statewide – the electricity you take from the grid is more renewable and clean. If you are able to charge your vehicle using electricity from your own rooftop solar system, your energy use is even cleaner. As the state heads toward 70 percent renewables for its electricity needs by 2040 and 100 percent soon after, your EV will be increasingly renewable as well. 

Sources: Kauai Island Utility Cooperative / Hawaiian Electric Electric Vehicle Resource / EV in Paradise - Huffington Post



How Far Can I Drive?

The latest EV models are being released with battery ranges of 200+ miles per charge. For example, the 2017 Chevy Bolt electric vehicle gets 238 miles and a Tesla Model S 75 can travel 265 miles when both are fully charged. Where can an EV with those ranges realistically take you in Hawaii? Picture these road trips!

Map of Oahu


You could cruise around the Oahu on a circle-island drive – starting in downtown Honolulu, around the south shore to the Makapuu Point Lookout and up the Windward Coast to Haleiwa, hit up the Kaena Point trailhead in Mokuleia before heading back to downtown. Bonus? You’d still have enough charge in your EV the next day to take your friends from downtown Honolulu to the beaches of Ko Olina Resort on Oahu’s Leeward Coast and back, then from downtown Honolulu to Lanikai and back the day after that. Along this route, you’d have the option to charge up at six of HECO’s fast chargers (Iwilei Costco, Ward Avenue, Hawaii Kai 7-Eleven, Dole Plantation, Kapolei Commons and Koolau Center). (194 miles total)

Map of Maui


You could take a round trip from Kahului to Hana and Kaupo via the scenic Hana Highway and head around the southeast side of Haleakala volcano through Upcountry Maui back to Kahului, then circle the entirety of west Maui past Lahaina and Kapalua and back to Kahului, where you can stop by MECO’s Kahului office on W. Kamehameha Avenue to use its fast charger. After that, you’d still have charge enough on your EV to drive from Kahului to the north shore for dinner in Paia before heading back to Kahului. (196 miles)

Map of Hawaii Island


You could travel much of the north half of the island in your 200+-mile range EV, heading north out of Hilo via the Hamakua Coast to the Pololu Valley Lookout near Hawaii Island’s northernmost point, then south to Kona and back north on the slopes of Maunakea volcano to ranching town Waimea. For a quick charge along the way, you can get a boost at HELCO’s three fast chargers (Kilauea Avenue in Hilo, Kaiwi Street in Kailua-Kona and Waimea KTA). (185 miles)

Map of Kauai


Over two days, you could take your EV on an east-side road trip from Lihue to Kee Beach on Kauai’s north shore and back to Lihue on day one, and head out on day two from Lihue to the west side and visit Poipu, the Waimea Canyon lookouts and Kokee State Park then back to Lihue. The best part? After all that driving, you’d still have more than enough charge to drive from Lihue to Kapaa for your favorite shave ice, then back to Lihue. (190 miles)


Range Anxiety

Driving in Hawaii

Range anxiety is the worry EV drivers sometimes feel when they are on the road and notice the charge level on their vehicle dropping. The question “Will I make it home?” is not a one you want to ask yourself often.

To feel comfortable about buying an EV, you need to know your vehicle will be ready to meet and exceed your needs every day. That includes days when you’ll need to use your EV a lot. Predicting your average use and your occasional above average use before buying an electric vehicle is important to avoid range anxiety. 

The miles an EV can travel on a single charge depends on factors that include the type of EV you’re driving, your driving speed and habits, the outdoor temperature and environment. Hawaii’s year-round mild climate is actually ideal for EV performance. Sure, most of us use our air conditioning while driving. But heating and defogging? Not so much. 

New battery electric vehicles should have a driving range of 100 to 200 miles. Plug-in hybrids may have a range of up to 300 miles since they also use gasoline power. For most EV owners, a complete recharge is not usually necessary for routine daily driving. However, the good news if you do need a quick charge is that Hawaii has lots of fast charging stations statewide – and more being installed all the time. Even if you rarely use one these fast chargers because you can charge at home, it is reassuring to know they are available.

Source: EV Range Anxiety

Overcoming Range Anxiety

For drivers residing in Hawaii’s rural areas, range anxiety can prove a very real barrier when deciding on whether or not to purchase an EV.

It’s true that EV drivers spend more effort calculating routes and searching for roads they can coast on than drivers of internal combustion engine vehicles do. They also learn to memorize specific routes and the amount of charge each route consumes, and study and adjust their driving habits. That’s just part of ownership.

In considering a purchase, your best bet to overcome initial range anxiety might be test driving an EV, and doing a real-world study of the distances you typically drive daily and whether the places you go have charging stations.

EVs are great for owners with short commutes. And fortunately, for much of Hawai and especially on Oahu shorter drives are more the norm than lengthy road trips. A good salve for range anxiety.

Source: Overcoming Range Anxiety




Electric vehicles cost less to drive, less to maintain and are even proving safer on the road than vehicles with internal combustion engines.

Think about it. Your car will never – we repeat, never – need an oil change. A gas station? Purchase a BEV and you might forget how to use a gas pump because you’ll never need one for the life of your car. No more gasoline fumes to inhale. No oil leaks. And here’s a kicker. For the money you spend on fueling up your EV with electricity, you’ll be getting back the equivalent of 110 miles per gallon.

Based on statewide averages, the fossil fuel used to create power for an electric vehicle from the grid in Hawaii is 34 to 40 percent less than the fossil fuel required to directly power a similar gasoline-fueled vehicle. This average is expected to improve as use of renewable energy sources in Hawaii increases.

Fuel Cost Comparison of a Nissan Leaf to Combustion Engine Cars

Source: HSEO Facts and Figures



Thinking of Buying an EV?

Before you even decide on which EV will be parked in your garage, ask yourself these questions about EV ownership.

How Much Do You Drive?
Evaluate the amount of miles you drive daily and your regular driving patterns to determine how large a mileage range you’ll need from your EV.

What Recharging Options Are Available at the Places You Regularly Go?
Determine your options for recharging your EV at home, work and all of the places you regularly go to. If you live in a rental home, condo, or multifamily dwelling check with your landlord, management company or condo/co-op board about EV charging rules.

How Fast Do You Want Your EV to Fully Recharge?
You have two voltage options to choose from for recharging your vehicle at home: a slow-charging, standard 120-volt outlet (one hour of charging = up to 4.5 miles) and a medium-charging 240-volt outlet (one hour of charging = 12 miles). Away from home at the places you go, you’ll find both 240-volt charging and 200-600 volt DC fast charging stations (10 minutes of charging = up to 40 miles). If you can’t decide on the best voltage option for your home, talk with automakers, dealers or even your utility for advice.

Source: EV for Homes


Which Vehicle is Right for Me?

Use Hawaiian Electric's Watt Plan to see an estimate of what your potential savings may be with an EV car.

I love my EV because there's virtually no maintenance required and I don't have to wait in line for gas. Driving an EV makes sense all around; a more efficient vehicle for the owner, more revenue for KIUC, and a cleaner environment for everyone.

Testimonial author photo

David Lee of Koloa (Kauai)