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Bissonette: The green hope

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By Mike Bissonette

You may be stopped at a red light and not realize the car sitting right next to you is new – and very different from other vehicles on the road. Some are styled like the finest Italian race cars; others are as practical as our beloved family sedans.

But they all whiz by with barely a sound and surprisingly swift acceleration. And best of all, they promise to make our lives and our world better – with zero on-road emissions and freedom from gas stations.

The electric vehicle (EV) has a colorful history in the islands; Hawaii has always been at the forefront of clean transportation. In the 1990s, the state was one of the first to build out an extensive network of passenger-EV charging stations to support Hawaii’s early adopters.

Today, with the much-anticipated launch of the Nissan LEAF and a variety of other electric models, Hawaii residents are lining up to purchase EVs, and the state government is once again demonstrating its commitment to the long-term success of clean transportation.

In perhaps its greatest demonstration of commitment, Hawaii is now requiring that all publicly-accessible parking lots with more than 100 spaces be equipped with at least one EV charging station by the end of this year.

As the number of EVs purchased in the state increases, the proportion of EV-ready spaces for each lot will also need to increase. Hawaii is supporting its parking lot charging initiative with an EV Ready program and other incentives designed to make electric transportation appealing to both drivers and the businesses they frequent.

Instant Savings for Businesses and Government Organizations
To help local businesses and government offices meet this growing need, the state is offering instant savings through recipients of its Hawaii EV Ready Grant Program.

The savings require no formal grant preparation on the purchaser’s part; savings are applied to the total cost of the EV charging station purchased from a charging provider who is a recipient of the State grant program.

These savings are up to 30 percent of the purchase price and are available until Feb. 29, 2012, or until program funds are exhausted. Federal tax credits can also save buyers as much as 30 percent, up to $30,000.

Additionally, Hawaii EV Ready partner AeroVironment is offering complimentary site consultations to help businesses determine their charging needs and design site layouts. Businesses can submit their information for a free consultation at

Augmenting the Hawaii EV Ready Grant Program is a consumer rebate program, designed to help residents by offering a 20 percent rebate on the vehicle purchase price (up to $4,500 per vehicle, one per applicant) and 30 percent off the cost of the charger and installation, up to a maximum of $500.

On top of this, consumers can benefit from federal tax credits of up to $7,500 for the vehicle and up to $1,000 for the charger. Combined with the Hawaii incentives, consumer savings could total as much as $13,500.

The Hawaii State Energy Office is playing a critical leadership role in preparing for widespread EV adoption by facilitating EV infrastructure throughout the state in popular commercial locations.

“Electric vehicles make sense for people in Hawaii in a number of ways beyond emissions reduction,” said Mark Glick, Energy Administrator, Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism’s State Energy Office.

“Contrary to the notion that EVs will strain the grid, overnight ‘refueling’ at home allows for better use of renewable resources such as wind energy, which is currently curtailed at night,” Glick said. “An optimized grid that can rely more heavily on renewable energy in turn provides economic and environmental security for the state.”

Hotels, rental car providers, utilities, and other businesses are joining state and county agencies by installing chargers to serve local EV-driving patrons as well as visitors with EV rentals. Marriott Waikiki was one of the first to install EV chargers to serve hotel guests.

“We’re supporting our guests who are choosing to drive electric vehicles,” said Rob Bahl, Marriott’s vice president of engineering and facilities for the Americas. “Installing EV charging stations is just one of Marriott’s initiatives supporting our ‘Spirit to Preserve’ environmental efforts.”

A future where Hawaii drivers lead the clean transportation movement is not far off – where residents refuel their cars with electrons instead of gas and augment nightly home refueling with EV charging at work, the mall, and other opportune locations.

Also actively participating in Hawaii’s aggressive EV infrastructure movement are UH Manoa, HECO, MECO, HELCO, and the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association (HADA).

“We’re seeing government, business, and customers working together in this effort,” said Dave Rolf, Executive Director of HADA. “The transition to renewable energy – and the role that the electric car plays in utilizing Hawaii’s abundant resources is a story everyone can embrace.”

— Find out more:

(Mike Bissonette, senior vice president and general manager, AeroVironment)

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