Hawaiian Electric Co. is pushing for more electric vehicles to build the utility’s customer base and make way for additional rooftop solar.
“Hawaii should be the EV capital of the world,” said Alan Oshima, HECO president and CEO, in an editorial board meeting with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Tuesday. The high price of gasoline in the islands and the short distances, especially on Oahu, make Hawaii an ideal location for the expansion of electric vehicles.
HECO is working to increase EV adoption by installing electric vehicle charging stations and partnering with the city to add electric buses. Oshima said HECO is also in talks with the military to get more electric vehicles and charging stations on Hawaii bases.
HECO’s campaign for more EV adoption comes amid a rapid growth in sales of electric cars, albeit from a small base. In February there were 4,209 registered electric vehicles in the state, up 26 percent from a year ago.
More than 100 Hawaii residents lined up at a Tesla Motors office in Waipahu last week and paid $1,000 to reserve the company’s latest electric car. The Tesla Model 3 sedan, which will be available late 2017, starts at $35,000 before state and federal incentives.
“Telsa’s launch of the Model 3 validates that things are changing,” said Richard Wallsgrove, program director at Blue Planet Foundation. “I really feel like we’re at an inflection point.”
HECO predicts there will be 388,500 electric vehicles on Hawaii’s roads by 2045. There are about 1 million vehicles registered in Hawaii.
Increased use of EVs gives electrical utilities a new market and could help replace lost demand due to rooftop solar and greater energy efficiency.
“EVs will fundamentally change how electric utilities do business,” said Silver Spring Networks, a California smart-grid company, in a 2013 white paper. “Utilities taking an active role in planning and implementing an EV charging management solution will be well positioned to benefit from the coming massive change in transportation.”
HECO’s Oshima said, “Any additional revenues we get all boils down to customer savings. It reduces rates.” HECO’s rates go down as total electricity use increases.
The electrical utility included EV predictions in the 30-year power plans it submitted to state regulators last week. In its power supply plans, HECO said sales to power EVs could make up 14 percent of total customer power sales by 2045. Electric vehicles are currently 0.5 percent of the utility’s customer sales. The state has a goal of reaching 100 percent renewable electric power generation by 2045.
The other benefit for HECO is that EVs add more load during the day. Right now the load has decreased during the day because solar energy production is so high, Oshima said.
“If we can get more load, we can increase the amount of solar we can get on the grid, too,” Oshima said.
Electric vehicles registered in state as of February
Increase from a year ago
Source: Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism
HECO’s to-do list for EVs
>> Get city to use electric buses.
>> Get military bases to use electric vehicles.
>> Promote state as EV capital of the world.
>> Have 388,500 EVs on the road by 2045.
Electricity and ground transportation combined make up more than half of the state’s dependence on oil, with 28 percent of the state’s oil use going to ground transportation and 28 percent going to electricity.
“There are so many synergies with EVs and getting to 100 percent renewables,” said Shelee Kimura, HECO vice president, corporate planning and business development. “If we have people charging in the day when the sun is available, it reduces the amount of storage you need, which is a cost. If more people charge and you are increasing sales, that reduces costs for everybody.”
Oshima said the electrical utility is applying for a federal grant along with the city to add electric buses to the city’s fleet.
“We would locate charging to match their bus requirements,” he said.
HECO is set to unveil its fifth utility-owned fast charging station for electric vehicles Thursday.
Oshima said the electrical utility is also looking into mobile charging options. Mobile charging would allow “more frequent psychological charging for people who want to be sure they are going to last through the day. … I would love to have an app like Uber where you find my car and you just charge me up and send me a message that I am charged so I don’t have to go looking around for the next charger or wait in line for 20 minutes for the person in front of me to complete their charge.”
Oshima said the number of EVs will grow because technology is improving.
“EV technology is getting greater and greater,” Oshima said. “Tesla Model 3 will have a 200-mile range, for example — which you don’t really need in Honolulu. The (Nissan) Leaf is perfectly adequate, except for the psychological (issues).”
Waimanalo resident Brian Malanaphy, 57, said he waited in line for an hour and a half to place his order for the Tesla Model 3 on Thursday.
“It’s pretty convenient and it’s green, so that’s good,” Malanaphy said.
Pearl City resident Lyle Waters, 45, said he got in line at 11:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Tesla Motors location in Waipahu and was the fifth in line.
“Hawaii is just the perfect environment for an electric vehicle,” Waters said. “We have the ability to have sunlight to provide power to our homes from (photovoltaic), and we don’t drive very far. … I’ve been a fan for a while. I have solar. We are just trying to be as efficient and clean as possible.”