Demand for Electric Vehicles Outpacing Charging Infrastructure

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Despite an upward trend in electric vehicle (EV) ownership throughout Hawai‘i, survey data released on Thursday, April 11, 2019, by Ulupono Initiative indicates that the current limited charging infrastructure is holding back the cultural transition away from internal combustion engines and hampering progress toward the state’s renewable energy goals.

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In a white paper titled “The Extra Mile: Why Electric Vehicles Make Sense for Hawai‘i’s Economy, Environment and Communities,” Ulupono Initiative concludes there are simply not enough public charging stations throughout the state to support the ever-growing number of EVs being purchased by residents.

“In order to maximize the role of EVs in reducing Hawai‘i’s dependence on imported fuel and fully benefit from this emerging market, it is critical that public- and private-sector stakeholders foster a supportive ecosystem for EVs by adopting progressive policy and ensuring that infrastructure, in the form of charging stations, keeps pace and precedes demand,” the white paper states. “Postponing investments in such infrastructure is unlikely to generate cost savings. Requiring new facilities to be EV-ready adds less than 1% to the cost of development, while installing EV infrastructure post-construction costs three times more. Upfront investments are cost-effective, smart and essential future proofing.”

Highlights of the survey data include:

  • Resident Hawai‘i EV drivers are generally dissatisfied with the existing charging network in the islands, averaging a score of 4.26 out of 10. The most common criticism was limited access to charging stations throughout the state.
  • 68% of EV owners were receptive to paying a fee for charger usage. Acceptance of a usage fee tended to be even higher for EV owners on neighbor islands at 81%.
  • The state may be missing out on efficiencies among visitors, as a majority of Hawai‘i visitors surveyed (56%) stated they probably would have rented an EV if it were available.

According to the Hawai‘i State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s Monthly Energy Trend Highlights report published in February 2019, there were 8,685 registered EVs in Hawai‘i, an increase of 26.1% from the same month the previous year. While that growth is impressive, EVs still only account for less than 1% of the 1,073,686 total registered passenger vehicles in the state.


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