(Maui Weekly) So what is the deal with electric cars? Chances are you've heard about the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, but have never seen one up close. How do they work? How far can they go on a charge? And, most importantly, where can you charge an electric vehicle (EV) on Maui?
On Friday, March 9, between 3 and 5 p.m. at the Kihei Foodland plaza, you'll be able to find out.
Better Place, the leading global provider of electric car networks, is holding a "Drive Electric Maui" public event and blessing to help announce the availability of their newest EV charging station, demonstrate how to charge an EV, and provide more information about how EVs work. For those who want to kick the tires and look under the hood of an EV, a Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt will be on-hand for inspection.
Maui Electric Vehicle Alliance (EVA) will also offer a chance for a test drive in a Chevy Volt as part of a survey they are conducting at the event.
This is good news for fans of zero-emission vehicles, said Maui EVA Director Anne Ku.
"This is a milestone in our effort to get Maui ready for EVs," said Ku. "We are thrilled that the general public can finally see and access a charging station. Last December, when we conducted a survey of the attendees of the movie 'Revenge of the Electric Car,' most people had never seen an EV, let alone a charging station."
"The first truly mass-produced electric cars are driving on our Hawai'i roads and more are headed our way," said Brian Goldstein, director of Better Place in Hawai'i. "This 'Drive Electric Days' event will help raise awareness of the many benefits electric cars offer and the Better Place network of charge spots on Maui, Kaua'i, the Big Island and O'ahu, offering more public charge points per capita in Hawai'i than any other state."
"Better Place is one of the industry leaders in electric vehicle charging, and we welcome them to Maui, where the full potential of electric vehicles is currently being explored through a series of projects, including the smart grid demonstrations," said Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa.
Current EV owners or those planning to purchase one this year will be able to sign up for a Better Place membership and charge their cars for free through 2012 at any one of the seven Better Place charging locations on Maui.
It's all part of Better Place's rollout of the largest electric car charging network in Hawai'i. By the end of 2012, the company will have more than 130 charge points throughout the state.
Over the past year-and-a-half, Better Place has been working with businesses and property owners, funded in part from the State Energy Office at the Hawai'i Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) and the U.S. Department of Energy. Its network is a step towards achieving the state's goal to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels by at least 70 percent by 2030.
Maui EVA member Dave Rolf, executive director of the Hawai'i Automobile Dealers Association, said, "Hawai'i is to the electric car what Napa Valley is to the grape--perfect conditions." He noted Hawai'i's short commutes, ideal climate for battery operation, and favorable government policies make owning an electric vehicle a good option for many island drivers.
Preparing for electric vehicles also makes good business sense.
"More and more forward-thinking, customer-oriented businesses will begin to link an EV charging station as a unique service that draws both EV and non-EV owners alike to their stores" said Byron Washom, director of Strategic Energy Initiatives at the University of California, San Diego, and a consultant for the Maui EVA project.
Carol Reimann, executive director of the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association, agrees. "The arrival of electric vehicles to Maui is an exciting development, which we hope will mark the beginning of a significant transition to alternative fuels," she said. Maui's major hotels are developing charging stations for their guests in anticipation of car rental fleets shifting more of their inventory to electric vehicles.
Maui EVA's partners from the Japanese/U.S. Smart Grid Project point out that Maui's development of EV infrastructure will draw more tourists to Maui with an interest in eco-tourism.
Osamu Onodera, chief representative in Silicon Valley for the Japanese consortium NEDO, noted that access to charging stations is "critical for consumers to have an optimal EV experience."
Maui EVA's planning process will be just in time, said Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto of the University of Hawai'i Maui College (UHMC). "In the next year, we are going to see a shift from concept to reality--and we would rather be prepared than rushing to catch up."
UHMC is planning the installation of charging stations on its campus and is investigating EV training for its automotive program.
"The level of interest from all sectors of Maui's community is strong and powerful," said Lance Holter, a member of Maui EVA and board member for the Sierra Club. "Maui is leading the state in renewable energy development. I look forward to the day when we can all say we walked the talk and led Hawai'i off its dependence upon imported energy."
"Championing the use of electric vehicles in Hawai'i is very exciting," said Cliff Ryden, president of Blue Pacific Energy based in Pa'ia and a member of Maui EVA. "The option to avoid fossil fuels will benefit us with energy independence, reduced cost and environmental healing. Clean, renewable energy harnessed right here can power EVAs. Combining clean energy with electric vehicles is going to be a huge win for Hawai'i."