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New vehicle charging station powers up at Capitol garage

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 11:36 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

State officials Wednesday unveiled a vehicle charging station in the parking garage at the Capitol that they said is the first of its kind in Hawaii available to the general public.

The unit is one of five that are being put in downtown state buildings as part of the government's first wave of charging station installations. Hawaii businesses also have begun installing charging stations, including one put in at the Sheraton Waikiki in April.

People with electric vehicles can use the charger at the Capitol for $2 an hour for a maximum of four hours. According to industry experts, one hour of charging sustains about 15 to 20 miles of driving.

The state is using federal stimulus money to finance the electric vehicle program. The state has ordered eight Nissan Leaf vehicles. Two have been delivered and have been assigned to the state energy office and motor pool.

"In some respects, I suppose you could say this is just a symbolic gesture at this point. But that's what gestures are all about, and that's what symbols are all about. What does it represent?" Gov. Neil Abercrombie said at a news conference.

"And what it represents is a commitment. And I think that everybody understands in order to have a commitment become a basic reality in everyday life — and the desire to have that happen — I think is shown by the interest that's here today."

The station at the Capitol is a 30-amp, Level 2 station made by Honolulu-based Volta Hawaii capable of charging a plug-in EV in four to eight hours depending on battery size, according to the Volta website.

The station features an industry-standard SAE J1772 plug compatible with the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and most other EVs. The charging station requires motorists using the electricity to pay with a credit card.

The Sheraton charging station is being used for company fleet vehicles, and will later be opened up to hotel guests. Hawaiian Electric Co. also has installed charging stations at some of its facilities, but they are not open to the public.

A number of other charging station projects around Hawaii are in the works, funded by a $2.6 million federal grant administered by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Better Place and AeroVironment, both based in California received $854,000 and $820,000 respectively to install charging stations on all islands. Honolulu and Kauai counties also received funding to put charging stations in government buildings and parking areas.

The state is also encouraging electric vehicle ownership by offering consumers rebates of $4,500 for electric vehicles and $500 toward the purchase and installation of their own charging stations. Federal tax incentives are also available.

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