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USA: Will Hawaii Become Paradise For Plug-In Electric Cars Too?

Hawaii is a beautiful state with warm tropical weather, but it’s also an expensive place to drive despite the limited travel distances on each of its islands.

Fuels have to be brought in by ship, and its gas prices ($4.45 a gallon this week) are some of the highest in the U.S.

All those factors together may make Hawaii the state that’s most suited to plug-in cars–and the state is eagerly embracing them.

Peter Rosegg, of the Hawaiian Electric Company, argues that the island chain is an ideal laboratory for broad-scale conversion to vehicles powered by grid electricity.

Highest rate of hand-raisers

And its citizens seem to be responding. Nissan says Hawaii had the highest per-capita rate of “hand-raisers,” those who wanted information on its Leaf electric car.

Three local power companies–Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light Company serving Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island–already offer discounted rates for off-peak charging of plug-in cars.

And public charging stations are being installed at a fast clip. The first one went live more than two years ago, in January 2010, well before either the Chevrolet Volt or the Nissan Leaf arrived at dealers in December of that year.

The lineup of charging points includes a planned total of 130 networked stations on four islands to be operated by Better Place. That company is offering free charging throughout 2012 at its new stations.

Electric vehicles park free in many Hawaiian cities and towns, and as in California, eligible plug-in vehicles get access to its High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes with only a single occupant.

Ambitious energy goals

With 90 percent of its energy derived from oil delivered by sea, Hawaii has set ambitious goals: By 2030, it wants to cut overall energy usage in the state by 30 percent, and derive 40 percent of that energy from renewable sources.

The state is becoming something of a test-bed for clean energy technology, in fact, and the greater efficiency of electric cars will be an important contributor to achieving those goals.


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