Hawaii may have achieved a milestone of registering more than 10,000 passenger electric vehicles in the state this fall — or not.
Depending on what is being counted and how, that benchmark number may never have been met, according to recent reports.
The state announced in October, in a monthly energy trends report, that the number of passenger EVs in the isles had reached 10,003 in September. That was a 28.3% jump over the same month a year ago, following a steady pattern of growth.
The reports — which are issued by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s Research and Economic Analysis Division — are usually released the first week of the following month.
But in the two months following the 10,000 mark, the number of passenger EVs reported by the state dropped dramatically.
In its monthly energy trends report for October, the state reported 8,546 passenger EVs, a drop of 1,457 vehicles, or 14.6%, from September. In the most recent report, the latest count is now at 9,184 EVs for November, an increase of 638, or 7.5% — more than October but still far short of that 10,000 milestone.
So far, the state has not been able to explain how approximately 1,500 passenger EVs appear to have abruptly gone away in October. The numbers generated for its report, however, come from vehicle tax data provided by the state’s various counties.
The State Energy Office said it is considering new methods for compiling numbers to more accurately count EVs in the state.
“The Hawaii State Energy Office is working with (DBEDT) as well as other state and county partners to review how the EV vehicle registration count is calculated,” the State Energy Office said in a statement. “The Monthly Energy Trends publication currently uses vehicle tax data provided by the counties to report the number of EVs, which is consistent with the reporting of other vehicle fuel types. The vehicle tax data has been used as a proxy for the count of EVs in the state of Hawaii. HSEO and its partners are developing a new methodology for compiling vehicle registration data that will more accurately reflect the number of EVs on Hawaii’s roadways going forward.”
The milestone — whether it was reached or not — was nevertheless celebrated by clean-energy advocates in October. The Drive Electric Hawaii coalition, made up of eight organizations, acknowledged the milestone by announcing that The Car Parlor and other businesses would offer $10 car wash specials for EVs for all of October.
What is clear is that despite a steady, upward growth over the past decade, the number of passenger EVs in the state has consistently remained below 1% of the number of registered passenger vehicles.
The Blue Planet Foundation, which advocates for clean energy and transportation, said its understanding was that the state found some anomalies with how EV registration data was being tallied.
“We appreciate that the office is taking this opportunity to dive more deeply into how their data is reported,” the foundation said in a statement. “You can only manage what you measure — accurate data is important for us all as we continue to promote electric vehicle adoption as a climate change mitigation strategy.”
The foundation, however, said it was confident that Hawaii’s EV count was steadily growing, and noted ownership in new demographics, thanks to new models and reduced prices.
“It would be hard to believe that 1,500 electric vehicles vanished from Hawaii’s roads in October, but if so, it would make for an excellent ‘Magnum P.I.’ episode,” said Blue Planet. “Regardless of the exact count right now, electric vehicles still account for a mere 1% of the passenger vehicles on the road today. To achieve our critical climate goals, it’s important that we make EVs a viable and attractive choice for all of Hawaii’s residents.”
Accessibility to EV charging infrastructure remains one of the state’s largest hurdles, the foundation said, and the majority of Hawaii residents still lack easy access to convenient charging at home or their workplaces. Blue Planet continues to work on advancing policies to support EV charging and incentives.
The state Department of Transportation announced Thursday that it is seeking proposals for EV and charging infrastructure statewide for a 10-year service contract. The proposals are due by Jan. 14.
In its most recent report, the state tallied 1,081,023 registered passenger vehicles in the state for November, up 10,745 vehicles (1.0%) from the same month last year but down 1,578 vehicles (0.1%) from October.
The number of passenger EVs in the state, at 9,184, was an increase of 965 vehicles, or 11.7%, from the same month last year, and up 638 vehicles, or 7.5%, from October. The number of passenger hybrid vehicles in the state dropped 2.5% from the same month last year to 24,457.