Navigant Research Blog

Hawaii Becoming an EV Paradise

John Gartner — September 25, 2013

Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) in California are by far the highest in the United States, but the state with the greatest density of EVs sold is further west.  According to Navigant Research’s recently released report Electric Vehicle Geographic Forecasts, by 2022, 10% of all new vehicle sales in Hawaii will be plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).  Most of the top states that will be selling EVs in 2022 (see the chart below) are known for being progressive, environmentally friendly, and tech savvy states, such as Oregon, Washington, and Vermont.  West Virginia, which is one of the top consumers of coal in the country, is an anomaly, thanks to a generous $3,500 state incentive for buying a PEV.  This illustrates the effectiveness of financial incentives in moving drivers from gas to electricity – even if that electricity may not come from a renewable resource.

PEV Sales as a Percentage of Light Duty Vehicle Sales, Top 25 States: 2022


(Source: Navigant Research)

In 2013, Hawaii will barely edge out California in PEVs as a percentage of new vehicles sold (2.7% to 2.6% ), according to the report.  One major factor is that Hawaiians pay more for gasoline than anywhere else in the United States, with prices currently ranging between $4.25 and $5.00 a gallon.

Hawaii will be the leader in PEVs sold thanks to strong support through the state government, local EV associations, and the state’s power provider, the Hawaiian Electric Company.  As outlined in a new report from Maui College and Berkeley Law at the University of California, Hawaii has done many things right, including offering PEV-specific electricity pricing, establishing a law to enable residents of multi-unit dwellings to install charging stations, and building a foundation of charging infrastructure.

But like every state, Hawaii still faces challenges, including rules that discourage new installations of rooftop solar and the uneven distribution of charging equipment across the islands.  Hawaii has benefited from EV charging infrastructure that was part of a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.  However, some of its charging stations are in flux, as they were originally installed by the now defunct Better Place and are being taken over by OpConnect, which will expand the number of charging stations.

Hawaii could be adding even more PEVs if there were greater support from car dealers and rental agencies.  Enterprise has EVs for rent in Hawaii, but it is more of an afterthought than a strategic business initiative.  Enterprise in Honolulu has just two Nissan LEAFs, while there is only one available in Maui (which I drove during a recent 2-day visit).  You can’t reserve the LEAF on Maui in advance, and Enterprise doesn’t have an EV-specific rental rate.

More than 100 Nissan LEAFs have been sold through the Nissan dealership on Maui, which is very impressive considering Maui has about half of the population of Boulder County, Colorado, where I live.  But the Nissan dealer on Hawaii’s big island won’t sell the LEAF, forcing residents there to pay additional fees to purchase the vehicle from another island.  The dealer told LEAF owner Doug Teeple that he would not sell EVs because he does not believe in climate change.

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