Archive for the ‘electric cars’ Category

Solar PV + EV

January 15th, 2015
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Wes Wada of Honolulu just installed a solar photovoltaic system on his home, which will help power the two electric vehiciles he and his wife drive around town. Courtesy Wes Wada.

Wes Wada of Honolulu just installed a solar photovoltaic system on his home, which will help power the two electric vehicles he and his wife drive around town. Courtesy Wes Wada.

Wes Wada of Honolulu is not your typical tree-hugger or environmentalist, but alternative energy has become part of his daily lifestyle.

Wada adopted alternative energy times three. He just hired Eco Solar to install a solar photovoltaic system (32 panels in all) on his rooftop in Honolulu last year to help power his home and his two electric vehicles. He's had the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV for three years, already.

So he's living the "Solar PV + EV" equation.

SOLAR PV + EV

Solar PV + EV means living on sunshine as your main generator of electricity, but of course, there are many factors to consider before making this investment. (Read "Living the EV/PV Dream" by GreenTech Media).

For Wada, it's worked out well, as part of the Hawaii lifestyle.

"That's really the way to go, in my opinion," said Wada. "The key thing, No. 1, is you need to know what the daily commute is going to be."

On an island like Oahu, chances are your distance is going to be pretty short compared to what it might be on the U.S. mainland. The investment in the electric vehicles which he and his wife use have worked out, when rebates were factored in. If he were to do it all over again, Wada says he would lease the Nissan Leaf  instead of purchasing it. That way, he says, you don't have to worry about the battery two years later.

Consider us lucky, too, given that we have sunshine, lots of it, through most of the year.

For Wada, once named an "Energy Hero" by Hawaii Energycost savings and convenience were the main motivation for going green.

"Imagine never having to line up at Costco again for gas," he said. "In five to six years, the solar PV system will be paid off, then you get free electricity for the home and the cars. The convenience factor is really big."

PERKS OF AN EV

The other perks – use of the HOV lane regardless of the number of passengers, free parking at meters and  the airport (there's a 30-day limit, according to the Hawaii Department of Transportation, but it's free of charge if you have an EV license plate), and dedicated parking stalls all add up.

The energy climate in Hawaii, today, is more uncertain, with NextEra's pending acquisition of HECO, plus the state utility's plan to raise fees for all electricity users, with extra fees for owners of solar PV.  Connecting the solar PV system to the grid is also a big uncertainty, with folks that have waited up to a year. If you've already got solar PV in place, the next natural step would be to consider an EV. At the same time, HECO is also offering a discounted time-of-use rate for owners of electric vehicles who charge up at non-peak hours.

Wada said he opted not to go with the time-of-use option, but he's definitely glad he opted for Solar PV + EV.

If you can't get approval for photovoltaic panels, Wada says there are still a lot of things you can do to cut back your electricity bill — LED light bulbs, a solar water heater, energy efficient appliances.

ON THE HORIZON

Most people worry about running out of electricity while on the road, but more charging stations are in the works, plus a start-up company is working on a mobile charging service for electric cars, according to Dave Rolf, executive director of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association. That sounds like a great idea.

"I would do it again, knowing what I know now," said Wada. "If people are really concerned about surviving in Hawaii and doing more with less, I think PV + EV is kind of a no-brainer."

What about you? Have you thought about investing in an electric vehicle in Hawaii? The number of EVs in the state reached 3,166 in December 2014. Are you more comfortable with a hybrid (with 19,256 in Hawaii, they make up about 1.7 percent of total passenger vehicles)?

EXCITING NEWS

The Toyota Mirai, Toyota's first fuel cell vehicle, is scheduled to be launched in Hawaii in November this year. A prototype will be available at the First Hawaiian Auto Show in March.

Year 2014 in eco-retrospective

December 26th, 2014
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Illustration courtesy of Surfrider.

Illustration courtesy of Surfrider.

It was a year of highs, and a year of lows for the environment. There were several milestones, and there remain many unknowns for the upcoming year of 2015. Below is a summary of the markers for the year 2014, as I saw it.

1. Plastic overload. The year 2014 was the year of plastic, as has been the case in previous years. This year, the alarm is at an all-time high. A new study published in December by the scientific journal, PLOS ONE, reported that an estimated 270,000 tons of plastic (enough to fill more than 38,500 garbage trucks) is floating in the world's ocean, and that's only the plastic that's on the surface, not the ocean floor. Not only that, but the plastic breaks down into more than 5 trillion pieces. The impacts of all this plastic in our oceans as well as the food chain (including the fish and seafood we eat) are still unknown. Read the AP story posted Dec. 13, 2014 at staradvertiser.com.

2. Plastic-bag free. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 38 in September, officially banning retailers from distributing plastic carryout bags, including biodegradable bags. But the law doesn't go into effect until July 1, 2015. With that in place, Oahu joins Maui, Kauai and the Big Island in banning plastic bags at checkout. Apparently, the reaction among our readers was to start hoarding plastic bags (49 percent of our readers, based on our Big Q poll). In September, California was the first to implement a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores.

3. Monk seal hospital. Ke Kai Ola, the new Hawaiian monk seal hospital in Kona, held its grand opening and blessing on Sept. 2. The Marine Mammal Center's $3.2 million facility is dedicated to giving sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals a second chance. Four young, malnourished monk seals, Kulia, Ikaika, Hala‘i and Maka‘ala, were admitted on July 9 after being rescued from the northwestern Hawaiian islands.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

4. Monk seal death. This year also marked a sad occurrence, with the suspicious death of a monk seal pup on the north shore of Kauai in November. Monk seal pup RF58 died from apparent blunt force trauma to the head. She was only about 4 to 5 months old, the daughter of Rocky, or RH58. An initial reward offer of $5,000 doubled to $10,000. In an unprecedented move, The Garden Island newspaper also decided to offer a $10,000 reward.

5. Expanded protection. President Barack Obama in September, through presidential proclamation, extended the protection zone around the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument by about 50 nautical miles. It was heralded as a victory by many conservation organizations in Hawaii who testified in favor of it.

6. HECO roller coaster. The Hawaii Electric Cos., the utility for the islands of Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, touched a major public nerve when its Aug. 26 plan was received by the Public Utilties Commission, proposing that the basic connection fees for customers in Honolulu be raised to a minimum of $55. On top of that, HECO attempted to drive a wedge between solar and non-solar customers, blamed its aging grid problems on solar PV customers and asked that new solar customers pay additional fees to connect. This came at a time when more than 3,500 solar PV customers were still waiting, from 9 months to a year, to get connected. Even DBEDT criticized the utility for putting its own profits above public interest while continuing to adhere to an outdated business model. Then in December HEI announced Florida-based NextEra would acquire the company for $4.3 billion, pending approval by the PUC. It's unknown how NextEra will treat individual solar PV customers. Let's just hope that battery storage systems become more affordable in coming years so that customers who want to get solar PV can do so, without worrying about the utility's grid.

7. Solar. It was not a good year for the solar industry in Hawaii. As reported in the Star-Advertiser business section, roof solar permits issued in Honolulu fell by 50 percent. Only 520 permits were issued by the city last month compared to 1,040 in November 2013 despite the availability of both state and federal tax credits (the federal tax credit is set to expire Dec. 31, 2016). Looking at the overall picture, though, the Hawaii State Energy Office noted that distributed renewable energy system installations increased significantly from 12,560 in 2012 to 18,316  in 2013. At the end of the year, the cumulative number of systems statewide totaled 40,717 with a total capacity of 253.5 Megawatt (MW). The state also ranked first in energy performance contracting in the nation with an investment of $235.74 per capita, and earned a third, consecutive Race to the Top award from the Energy Services Coalition in 2014.

8. Bronze for bikes. Honolulu earned its first bronze as a bicycle-friendly city from the League of American Bicyclists. Honolulu is the first municipality in Hawaii to achieve the bronze. Bicycle activists say Honolulu made strides in five areas, including engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation. They also laud the new King St. Cycle Track as a big step forward.

9.  Invasive species. From downed albizia trees on the Big Island to little fire ants and coconut rhinoceros beetles, the year 2014 was a year to monitor potentially destructive invasive species. The state department of agriculture does the best that it can on a meager budget. The albizia trees got plenty of attention during tropical storm Iselle, when they fell like a row of matchsticks and downed power lines. The little fire ants made their way to Mililani Mauka. The latest coconut rhino beetle, previously discovered around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam,  was found in a trap at Kakaako Waterfront Park. Add to the list, a coconut crab in Salt Lake, and an emu on the Big Island.

10. Electric Vehicles. The number of people driving electric vehicles in Hawaii continues to grow. As of October 2014, DBEDT estimated the number of passenger electric vehicles in the state was 3,026, up 54.5 percent, from 1,068 from the same month a year ago. More charging stations are also popping up around the isles. Volta just announced two free charging stations outside of Whole Foods Market in Kahului, Maui.

Volta opening first EV station on Maui

December 4th, 2013
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Volta is opening its first EV charging station at Whaler's Village on Maui this month. Courtesy photo.

Volta is opening its first EV charging station at Whaler's Village on Maui in January. Courtesy photo.

Lucky we live Hawaii.

Volta Industries continues to expand the number of free-to-use EV charging stations in its Volta Network in Hawaii, including a sixth station at Ward Warehouse (in front of Executive Chef) in November and its first station on Maui in January.

As of Nov. 1, Volta says it has given away over 60,000 miles of charging over a two-year period at its charging stations in Hawaii, Arizona and California. Companies, including the First Insurance of Hawaii, Central Pacific Bank and Honolulu Ford, purchase a sponsorship of the charging stations.

Scott Mercer, Volta founder and CEO, estimates EV drivers in the three states have saved about $100,000 in gasoline charges and offset enough CO2 to fill 117 Washington Monuments. He added that Volta hopes to have given away 5 million miles in five states by the end of next year, 2014.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is expected to be held at Whaler's Village, which will be the site of Volta's first EV charging station on Maui, in late January.

As of September 2013, state figures show there are 1,869 electric cars on Oahu. The average mile per gallon equivalent for EVs on the road ranges from 90 to 115 miles per gallon.

National Plug In EV contest

September 23rd, 2013
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Volta is holding a social media contest highlighting EVs in Hawaii for National Plug-In Day. Courtesy photo.

Volta is holding a social media contest highlighting EVs in Hawaii for National Plug-In Day. Courtesy photo.

Volta Industries is holding a social media contest to celebrate National Plug In Day Sept. 28 and 29.

To enter, snap and share a photo of Hawaii's EV scene, whether it's a Tesla cruising down H1 or a Nissan Leaf charing outside of Whole Foods Market at Kahala Mall. Post it on to Facebook (www.fb.co/voltacharging) with the hashtag #NationalPlugInDay. Participants will be entered in a drawing for dozens of prizes.

The  grand prize is a premium auto detailing worth $200 for your car (EV or not).

Arden Penton, director of operations for Volta, which operates the Volta Network (offering free-to-use EV charging stations) says there are 1,783 EVs in Hawaii – more per capita than anywhere else in the U.S. On Oahu, a total of 1, 371 electric cars were sold on Oahu as of August 2013.

"We're thrilled Hawaii is charging ahead on the course to clean energy, and hope this contest highilights how Hawaii has embraced EVs."

On the Big Island, the Big Island EV Association is hosting EV talkstory sessions from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Hilo Home Depot (corner of Makaala and Roalroad Ave.) and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29 at Kona Commons near Sports Authority. Email leaf@evhawaii.org to learn more.

The Tesla S is here

October 8th, 2012
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The Tesla Model S has arrived in the Hawaiian islands. Photo from Teslamotors.com gallery.

The Tesla Model S has arrived in the Hawaiian islands. Photo from Teslamotors.com gallery.

The Tesla Model S electric sedan has arrived in Honolulu and will be introduced at a presss conference Tuesday morning (Oct. 9) hosted by the Blue Planet Foundation and Volta Industries.

Concerns over limited travel range, limited seating and "sexiness" were all adressed in the new Tesla Model S, which travels up to 300 miles per charge (at 55 miles per hour), seats up to seven and accelerates from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds.

The Tesla S interior features a 17-inch WiFI control center.

The Tesla S interior features a 17-inch touchscreen with WiFi-enabled control center. Photo from teslamotors.com.

Prices start at a more affordable $49,000 (with federal tax incentives up to $7,500). The Tesla Roadster, by contrast, starts at prices over $100,000. There are also battery options that include 40, 60 and 85 kilowatt hours. Inside the Model S offers a 17-inch touchscreen with a WiFi-enabled control center.

They come in signature red, black, silver and white.

Hawaii commuters currently drive a total of 29 million miles a day, burning an average of $5.4 million in gas, emitting 13,500 tons of carbon dioxide pollution, according to Blue Planet. Electric cars offer an alternative.

Hawaii is on its way to reaching an expected milestone of 1,000 registered EVs this month.

Tesla's first run of the Model S included 3,000 vehicles. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company plans to manufacture 20,000 of the Model S for 2013. Reservations are available at www.teslamotors.com/own.