Electric Vehicles

Hawaii utilities unveil transportation electrification plan

Converting Hawaii’s transportation sector to electricity could facilitate increased renewables in the state while lowering overall costs, according to a “roadmap” drafted by the Hawaiian Electric Companies.

By 2045, most vehicles in Hawaii will be electric and the state will be powered by a clean energy ecosystem, according to the roadmap, released March 29. “Little is wasted because ground transportation and energy use are linked to optimize daytime charging and to use [electric vehicles] as a key grid service resource,” the roadmap said.

By taking early action, Hawaii will be ready when the price of electric vehicles drops to the same level as internal- combustion vehicles, which is expected by 2025, according to the roadmap. “By planning now for this fundamental shift in consumer preferences, we can ensure the efficient sequencing of upgrades to the grid, influence consumer behavior and avoid a chaotic outcome that is costly to fix retroactively and could potentially slow the state’s march toward energy independence,” said Hawaiian Electric Companies, which includes Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light.

An aggressive move towards adding EVs will help Hawaii meet its goal of getting all its electricity from renewable resources by 2045, according to the utilities.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies developed the plan at the direction of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

The multi-prong electrification plan calls for spurring EV adoption by working with automakers, dealerships and advocates to lower the price of EVs and educating customers on vehicle options and benefits.

The utilities intend to work with third-party charging providers and others to facilitate the buildout of charging infrastructure, especially in workplaces and multi-unit dwellings. The plan calls for expanding the network of utility-owned fast-chargers and public 240-kilovolt Level 2 chargers to reduce “range anxiety” among drivers who fear they will be stranded without a way to charge their cars.

The utilities said they aim to support a transition to electric buses, with an emphasis on cutting the upfront costs and providing charging options. After targeting buses, electrification efforts can move to trucks and other heavy equipment, the utilities said.

A key part of the plan is to provide incentives to encourage charging during the day at off-peak periods when solar production is highest, according to the utilities. Day-time charging could use the production from an additional 200,000 rooftop solar systems that would otherwise be producing excess energy, the roadmap said.

Finally, the utilities called for coordinating the electrification effort with the state’s ongoing grid modernization to make sure EVs are smoothly integrated into electric delivery networks.

The utilities estimate that electrifying the transportation sector would produce $550 in benefits per EV and that the benefits would triple if vehicles were charged during the day. Statewide, the savings could reach $311 million when considering reduce gasoline use and auto maintenance, according to the roadmap.

Also, electrifying the transportation sector will allow the utilities to spread their fixed costs over more kilowatt hours, lowering the unit cost of electricity, according to the roadmap. “This, combined with smart charging, will improve the cost-effective utilization of each island’s grid infrastructure for the benefit of every customer and our state economy as a whole,” the roadmap said.

Hawaii has 7,000 EVs on the road, putting it second behind California in the most electric vehicles per capita in the United States, according to the roadmap. Also, the city and county of Honolulu is testing electric buses to see if they can replace their diesel fleet and other counties are considering similar steps, the utilities said.

Many of the steps outlined in the roadmap have already been put in place by other utilities, mainly in California, according to the roadmap.

In developing the roadmap, the utilities said they talked with stakeholders, transportation and technical experts, policymakers, non-government organizations and customers with and without EVs.

“If this plan works right, EVs can be both a clean, stylish form of transportation and a flexible piece of grid hardware that will make it easier to bring more renewable resources online and lower energy costs for everyone,” the roadmap said.