The next time you’re at a stoplight or stuck in traffic, take a look around — you’re more likely to be next to an electric car, which is slowly and steadily growing in popularity among Hawaii drivers.

If you’re not familiar with how to spot an electric vehicle, it may not be obvious. EVs are whisper-quiet so you won’t necessarily hear them unless they’re backing up. They now come in a variety of makes and models — from SUVs to sedans — with similar styling to gas-powered vehicles. Besides having an EV-designated Hawaii license plate, most EVs look like any other car on the road.

Obviously, the main difference is its “fuel,” which is electricity instead of the gasoline made from oil that our state imports from overseas. Even with Hawaii’s expensive electricity rates, the estimated cost of charging an EV is still significantly less than refueling at the pump, which averaged $3.89 per gallon in June 2018. While fuel represents 31 percent of an average gas car’s total cost of ownership, it’s only 9 percent for an electric car.

A 2018 promotional launch for an electric vehicle. In spite of Hawaii’s high electricity costs, the author argues that EVs are cheaper than one might think. 

The beauty of an EV being similar to the standard car is that it’s not a huge leap to ownership. This electric “fuel” does require a change in habit — moving away from filling up at a gas station and instead plugging in either at home or at one of many public chargers around the islands. As an EV driver for the past four years, I can attest that charging is easy and quick to learn.

A major misperception is that EVs are only for wealthy people. While there are certainly high-end versions on the market, the average electric vehicle costs $38,775, compared to $34,110 for an average full-size gasoline vehicle (source: January 2018 Kelley Blue Book Average Transaction Price). The $7,500 federal EV tax credit can bring the price tag down to $31,275, making the average electric car cheaper than the average full-size gas car. As technology improves, battery range increases and more automakers ramp up production, the cost of EVs will continue to get better.

Prices Declining

Maintenance is where the real savings are found, since you won’t have to pay for oil changes, filters or even spark plugs. An EV has just 25 moving parts, compared to approximately 2,000 in a gas car. That translates to an annual maintenance cost of approximately $1,106 for an EV compared to $1,509 for a gas car (source: 2018 University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute). As an EV owner myself for the past three years, I’ve only had to rotate my tires.

As the price of electric vehicles continues to decline, and consumers become more aware of the overall cost savings from EV ownership, more people are buying into the technology. We currently rank fourth nationally in total EV sales and have the second highest concentration of EV ownership per capita.

With all that said, the greatest impacts of driving electric will transcend the monetary benefits. Moving towards more renewable energy in ground transportation is an investment in our state’s future. We all need to make sure we are doing our part to push against the status quo and assure that we are moving toward more sustainable means of transportation, for the benefit of our island home and environment. Not to mention, in my own personal experience, electric vehicles are downright fun to drive. They’re quick, quiet and responsive with no emissions.

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