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Hawaii plots course to an all-electric future

Kalakaua Ave along Waikiki beach, Oahu, Hawaii.

A roadmap created by Hawaiian Electric, has the goal of getting EV ownership to outpace ICE-powered vehicles by 2045

Hawaiian Electric has released an “Electrification of Transportation Strategic Roadmap” which describes near- and long-term actions to lower emissions and reduce imported fuel for transportation. The plan, filed with the state’s Public Utilities Commission, foresees Hawaii in 2045 with the majority of its personal light duty vehicles powered by electricity generated by solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal and other renewable resources.

Hawaii already has the second highest rate of EV adoption in the US, and with dozens of long-range, all-electric models expected over the next decade, the utility argues that Hawaii is uniquely positioned to be a leader in terms of clean transportation.

Hawaii already has nearly 7,000 EVs registered, the report notes, second only to California per capita. In addition to rail, which will be powered by electricity, the City and County of Honolulu is considering electric buses to replace its diesel fleet, as are other counties. And electrification at harbors and airports presents possibilities for increased renewable energy use.

“This is a global movement that is transforming the way that individuals, families and businesses use vehicles and we have to be ready,” said Hawaiian Electric’s general manager of electrification of transportation Brennon Morioka. “This roadmap lays out the steps for meeting the changing needs of our customers and communities and adapting to the new technologies we know are coming.”

In coming years, the plan says, charging cars, trucks, buses and heavy equipment is expected to make room on the grid for nearly 200,000 more private rooftop solar systems and grid-scale renewable projects, lowering the cost of energy to utility customers (Hawaii has historically suffered from very high power and gasoline prices, owing to its remote location ans reliance on imported fuel).

The utility says that replacing fossil fuels with electricity for passenger transportation could provide US$60 million in benefits to its customers over the next 27 years – whether they own an EV or not. If avoided gasoline and vehicle maintenance costs are included, the improvement in Oahu’s total “energy wallet” for transportation could increase by more than US$200 million over the same period, it says.

It says that a full analysis of potential savings for Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light will be available in the near future.

The roadmap, which is available here, ultimately makes five broad short-term recommendations.

  1. Boost EV adoption by working with automakers, dealerships and advocates to lower the purchase price and educate customers on vehicle options and benefits
  2. Partner with third-party charging providers and others to facilitate the buildout of charging infrastructure, especially in workplaces and multi-unit dwellings. Expand the network of utility-owned fast-chargers and public Level 2 chargers in gap areas to reduce range anxiety
  3. Support customers to transition to electric buses with targeted efforts to reduce the upfront cost and provide practical charging options. From buses, efforts can move to trucks and other heavy equipment
  4. Create grid service opportunities with incentives for demand response participation and charging aligned with grid needs to reduce costs and save drivers money
  5. Coordinate with ongoing grid modernisation to ensure smooth integration of EVs into energy delivery networks and optimum use of renewable resources

Although the actions are broad brush now, it’s encouraging to see the utility is laying the groundwork ahead of an ambitious target for 2045. And if uptake continues at rates seen so far, the EV Mecca of California will have a race on its hands.


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