Hawaii drivers are feeling charged about driving electric vehicles. The total number of registered EVs in the state recently surpassed 8,600.

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Although that is significant, this number still makes up just 1% of all registered vehicles in Hawaii. We have only begun to tap EV’s potential in helping our state reduce its dependency on imported oil.

EV adoption is being powered by a variety of factors, including a responsibility to future generations to do our part in combating climate change.

Another more direct motivator is the steady decrease in the cost of purchasing EVs, coupled with overwhelming data confirming that owning an electric car, in the long run, saves drivers money compared to a typical gas-powered vehicle.

Plus, manufacturers have broadened their EV lineups, offering more affordable and attractive models.

However, adoption is also grounded by drivers’ confidence in the charging infrastructure around them and assurance it will keep pace with their needs. Range anxiety — the distance an EV driver is willing to travel without certainty a charging port will be available en route to or at the destination — continues to feed potential EV owners’ hesitations about making the transition to driving electric.

The future: an EV charging.

Ulupono Initiative

According to the state Department of Health, the transportation sector is responsible for the majority of Hawaii’s greenhouse gas emissions. If we are serious about combatting climate change, we need to significantly bolster clean transportation alternatives.

At a local level, internal combustion engine vehicles emit polluted air directly into our communities, which disproportionately hurts our keiki and kupuna. Additionally, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on importing costly fossil fuels to our state, and EVs provide a viable alternative to help reduce Hawaii’s high cost of living.

Legislation Required

Priority bills were introduced this legislative session to advance the development of a sound framework for necessary EV infrastructure. At Ulupono Initiative, we support energy projects that utilize Hawaii’s abundance of renewable resources to reduce our dependence on imported oil, and we therefore appreciate policymakers for introducing and supporting these measures thus far and the challenge they have in balancing key priorities.

Senate Bill 1000 SD2 HD2 has the purpose of prohibiting the issuance of building permits pursuant to applications initiated on or after Jan. 1, 2020, for certain new multi-family dwelling and commercial parking areas unless at least 20% of the parking stalls are EV charger ready or the permits are in compliance with building code requirements that are at least as stringent as the statewide requirement.

Requiring such facilities to be “EV ready” is cost-effective, smart and essential future proofing. On average, making facilities EV ready upfront adds less than 1% to the cost of development, while installing EV infrastructure post-construction costs three times more.

EV-ready policies are already in place in other metropolitan areas. For example, the city of Atlanta passed an ordinance in 2017 that requires 20% of spaces in all new commercial and multifamily parking structures to be EV ready. In 2018, the city of Vancouver approved an increase of EV readiness for new construction from 20 to 100 percent.

“EV-ready policies are already in place in other metropolitan areas.”

Rebates and intangible incentives also play a major role in overall adoption.

House Bill 1585 HD1 SD2 has the purpose of creating a program to be administered by the Public Utilities Commission that offers rebates for the installation of new EV charging systems or the upgrade of existing EV charging systems, to be funded by a newly established electric vehicle charging system rebate program special fund.

While these measures move through the legislative process, our team at Ulupono felt so strongly about the tangible benefits of incentives that we decided to partner with Hawaii Energy to provide a limited-time, pilot incentive program to encourage EV charging station installations at commercial buildings and multi-family residences throughout our state.

The program, which expires at the end of June, offers a $5,000 rebate for each new charging station installation and a $1,500 rebate for each retrofitting from single-to dual-port with network connectivity. Our intention is to help prove the effectiveness of this type of program, as well as ease the burden on property owners and motivate them to join this statewide effort.

The state is getting serious about meeting its renewable energy, clean transportation and climate change goals. Ulupono Initiative applauds legislators for driving progress forward, and we encourage drivers and business stakeholders to jump on board.

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About the Author

  • Greg Gaug
    Greg Gaug is vice president of investments with Ulupono Initiative, a Hawaii-focused impact investing firm working to improve the quality of life for island residents in four key areas: locally produced food; clean, renewable energy; and better management of water and waste.