Monday, October 5, 2015         

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Green means go as high-voltage vehicles hit isles

By Kimberly Yuen


The movement to make Hawaii's roads greener passed a milestone yesterday.

The first high-voltage electric car that supports the 240-volt international charging standard J-1772, the Wheego, and its dedicated charging station were unveiled at the Green Energy Outlet's location in Kakaako. The cars were available for test drives and pre-orders.

The low-speed version of the Wheego, called the Whip, can go up to 35 mph and as far as 40 miles on a charge. The Whip and its full-speed counterpart, LiFe, are front-wheel-drive cars with power locks, remote-control doors, power windows and air bags for both the driver and single passenger.

"They didn't sacrifice anything," said Ron Hansen of Wheego Hawaii. "It has all the amenities you expect out of a vehicle."

The Whip retails for $18,995.

The Wheego LiFe looks the same as the Whip, but differs in performance. It is a crash-tested car approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation for highway driving that can go up to 100 mph with its 115-volt lithium battery.

Hawaii will be among the first in the nation to receive the LiFe when it ships in September. It retails for $32,995.

Coulomb Technologies developed the charging station for the cars, the ChargePoint, which offers three levels of charging the electric vehicle.

A full charge on the Wheego takes about eight hours on level 1, which accommodates a standard AC plug at 120 volts and 20 amps. Level 2 is the triple-phase alternating current at 240 volts and 80 amps and would fully charge the Wheego in two hours.

The fastest, level 3, delivers electricity at 300 to 500 volts and 100 amps and can charge the Wheego in 30 minutes.

Michael Leone, president of Green Global Communities, said it is essential to have charging stations available before selling electric vehicles to the public.

"The cars were out there, but people were hesitant to buy them because there was nowhere to charge them," he said. "What a dream it would be to have all electric cars."

He said he hopes to have 5,000 charging stations installed in homes and businesses islandwide within the next year.

ChargePoint also offers an application for smartphones to see locations of unoccupied stations and will send charging status notifications via text messages. The ChargePoint application is free from the iTunes app store.

"We can't continue to live on petroleum anymore," said Mark Piscioneri, energy vehicle consultant for Pacific Energy Vehicles. "Oil gets harder to find and more dangerous to get."

"When we get into the Wheego -- we go everywhere," he said. "Well, there's one place we don't go, a gas station."

The Wheego vehicles are assembled in Ontario, Calif.

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