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Hawaiian Electric receives PUC approval for its electric bus infrastructure pilot project

Hawaiian Electric today announced it has received approval to move forward with a pilot program that will encourage the growth of electric bus fleets through the installation of charging ports on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island.

The state Public Utilities Commission recently approved the “eBus Make-Ready Infrastructure Pilot Project,” clearing the way for Hawaiian Electric to install “make-ready” infrastructure to support up to 20 electric bus charging ports at five to 10 customer sites over three years on the three islands.

Under the pilot program, Hawaiian Electric will pay for and manage construction of equipment and wiring up to and beyond the fleet operator’s meter to where the chargers would be installed. The customers’ responsibilities will be to install and maintain the charging stations, to pay for the cost of the electricity used, and the procurement of the electric buses.

“With Hawaii committed to achieving zero carbon emissions by 2045 it’s important that we move aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in ground transportation,” said Aki Marceau, director of electrification of transportation at Hawaiian Electric, in a news release. “As a rider of Honolulu’s public bus system, I recognize firsthand that electrifying our bus fleets will allow everyone access to the health, environmental and economic benefits of electric vehicles.”

Hawaiian Electric said it is in the process of ramping up the program and expects to begin accepting applications by January 2022 from bus operators that meet specific eligibility criteria.

In its application to the PUC, submitted last summer, Hawaiian Electric said it expects to invest up to $4.25 million in pilot costs, which it seeks to recover through the Renewable Energy Infrastructure Program surcharge.

The pilot project addresses two obstacles to the implementation of electric bus use — the upfront cost, which includes the buses, charging stations, and infrastructure as well the operational adjustments needed to switch from diesel fueling to charging.

Hawaiian Electric addresses these obstacles by footing some of these expenses, the utility said, but believes it will result in long-term savings.

Operating an electric bus could save more than $400,000 over its lifetime due to lower fuel and maintenance costs, Hawaiian Electric said in the news release. Switching to electric buses as fleets are replaced or expanded will also reduce diesel use and tailpipe emissions.

Hawaiian Electric, in an analysis submitted to the PUC, estimated that net greenhouse gas emissions would be 27% to 38% lower per mile with an electric bus compared to a diesel bus.

The utility anticipates the market for local electric buses will also grow over the next 12 to 15 years, and that this pilot is an investment for the “broader ongoing benefits to all customers in the future.”

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