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State wants more electric vehicle charging stations

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    BSN CHARGING STATION - 25 JUNE 2015 - Jodi Wilmott charged her electric vehicle at one of six charging stations located at the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore. Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo by Cindy Ellen Russell
    This EV charging station is at the Turtle Bay Resort. The state says it wants to support EV expansion through rebates to help meet its 2030 energy goals.

Driving on Oahu’s North Shore or the Waianae Coast in an electric vehicle can be nerve-wracking.

The Waianae Coast has one public EV charging station. The North Shore has four, but there is a 19-mile stretch between Dole Plantation and Turtle Bay with no public charging stations.

Many drivers just avoid those areas.

"I don’t know if I’ll make it back," said Jen Ho, 46, who hasn’t made the trip to the North Shore in her Nissan Leaf since she bought the electric vehicle a year ago.

"It’s off limits, going out there in my Leaf," she said.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism is pushing for the expansion of the electric vehicle infrastructure.

In an energy analysis draft released this month, DBEDT highlighted electric vehicles as a key to reaching its goal of cutting the state’s use of fossil fuels for ground transportation by 70 percent by 2030.

So far, Hawaii is falling behind on its goals for EV use. DBEDT had a target of 10,000 EVs on the road in 2015, but there are only about 3,400.

To encourage more EV use, DBEDT is proposing the state offer rebates for multiunit dwellings and workplaces that install charging stations or update building codes to ensure outlets are provided for EVs.

Without more charging stations, it will be hard to get more drivers to switch to EVs.

Having just one charging station in an area is not enough to ease the concerns of EV drivers.

"You need a cluster," Ho said. "If there is one station and it’s full, you will be out there waiting for the charging station to open up."

She’d like to drive to the North Shore, but not until there are more stations.

"We love to go out there," Ho said. "I don’t want to spend my day on the North Shore waiting for a stall."

Charging station companies are taking note of the increasing demand from EV drivers.

Dexter Turner, CEO of OpConnect Hawaii LLC, said the company is interested in expanding electric vehicle charging stations to the North Shore.

"We have noticed there is a lack of charging stations in the North Shore area and would love to get more up there," Turner said.

Arden Penton, director of media and operations for Honolulu-based Volta Industries, said the company has been working to install electric vehicle charging stations in Haleiwa town on the North Shore.

"That is our No. 1 request," Penton said. "The infrastructure is definitely needed."

In November, Penton said Volta was planning on adding stations but trying to fulfill community requests has become a challenge, and Penton noted the plans had been stalled.

Some are concerned with how the designs of the futuristic-looking, internally illuminated stations would impact the historic Haleiwa town.

"We have had a little bit of a challenge getting our foot in the door," Penton said. "They are really trying to stay true to the traditional Haleiwa town."

Penton said the company is trying to deploy the free-charge stations without impacting the town’s personality.

Charge stations are even rarer on the Waianae Coast.

"On the Waianae Coast, you don’t have as much EV adoption as you do on the North Shore," said Kurt Speas, Nissan Leaf specialist at Tony Nissan.

Turner said OpConnect chose Honolulu as the primary location to sell its charging stations, but has begun reaching out to other areas around the island.

"We certainly did put more effort in putting stations in town," Turner said.

He said it has been difficult for OpConnect to find businesses that are willing to invest in a charging station outside of the urban Honolulu core.

"The property owners we have reached out to, there hasn’t been a whole lot of interest in investing in charge stations," Turner said. "Every now and then we hear some requests. You don’t have a lot in that area."

The state’s major electric utility, Hawaiian Electric Co., is joining the effort to get more EV charging stations near the North Shore. The company installed the first utility-owned, public fast charger on Oahu at the Dole Plantation, opening the station on June 1.

"The fast charger will help eliminate ‘range anxiety’ for residents and visitors driving EVs between Honolulu or West Oahu and the North Shore," said Peter Rosegg, HECO spokesman. "While we have been promoting EVs for a long time and have been working on this charge spot for some months, this step fits nicely with the state of Hawaii transportation plan."

About 19 miles away from the Dole Plantation, at the Turtle Bay Resort, is the nearest North Shore charging station.

Before the Dole station opened, drivers had a 25-mile journey between the Turtle Bay station and the next closest one located at Town Center of Mililani.

Mark Glick, administrator for the Hawaii State Energy Office, said North Shore is one area the state is considering as it works to expand charging stations in the state.

"To expand the penetration of electric vehicles throughout the state, the State Energy Office is pursuing policies and deployment opportunities for EV charging stations in rural areas, including locations on the North Shore of Oahu," Glick said.

While the state doesn’t have direct control over where the stations are installed, the Energy Office said it wants to support EV expansion through rebates to help meet the state’s 2030 transportation goals.


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