National Plug-In Day got off to an early start on Saturday, Sept. 22, when electric vehicle owners and those interested in knowing more about them got together for a morning of information, demonstrations and test drives. The curious could not only kick the tires, but actually test drive a variety of electric cars, scooters and bikes neatly arrayed in front of the Maui Swap Meet entrance in the University of Hawai'i Maui College parking lot.
The Maui event, one of more than 60 across the country, was co-hosted by Maui Electric Vehicle Association (Maui EVA), the newly formed Maui Electric Auto Association and the swap meet. It brought together a bevy of exhibitors and vendors including Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Jim Falk Motors and Maui Toyota Scion. Also on-hand were Maui Electric Cruiser, Bio-Beetle Eco Rental Cars and Paradise Scooters.
EV rentals available
Beyond oil. Anne Ku (left), project director of UH Maui College’s Maui Electric Vehicle Alliance, and Christine Andrews (right), president of the newly formed Maui Electric Auto Association, an organization for owners of electric vehicles, were both active in organizing and staffing the Plug-In Day event.
Chad Itagaki, Maui area manager for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, was pleased with recent interest in electric car rentals on Maui. He said Enterprise has recently added three Nissan Leafs and one Chevy Volt to its rental fleet and has found visitors and residents alike to be receptive to the gas-free vehicles.
Itagaki admitted he was "skeptical" at first about the cars. "I had range anxiety," he said, referring to the fear that the car might run out of juice with no charging station nearby. But, he said, the popularity of the electric vehicles (EV) on O'ahu was encouraging and the cars are proving equally accepted here.
Itagaki said Enterprise plans to expand the number of rental vehicles on the Valley Isle as the infrastructure for charging them expands.
For Plug-In Day, Enterprise and others offered a drawing for a free weekend of use. The company also has a special rate on their EV rentals that runs through October.
Bikes are fun, fast
Though a chance for a free test drive of an electric car seemed like the biggest attraction of the morning, those having the most fun were clearly the adventurous folks trying out the electric bikes from Maui Electric Cruisers in Kihei.
Paul Sutherland took some stylish swoops around the asphalt on a Schwinn Chopper model--a souped-up bicycle with a 750-watt motor and a 48-volt lithium ion battery.
The Chopper, with its motorcycle-style raised handlebars, can zip along at a speedy 20 miles per hour--"probably even faster," hinted company owner Adel Gabriel, "but 20 mph is the speed limit."
Sutherland pronounced the ride "great--it's really peppy," and went on to take a look at and ride some of the other bikes on display. A Kahului resident, he said he often runs or rides to work, but the thought any of the bikes would be great for going a little farther, "like Wailuku."
Cruiser chief Gabriel said his most popular model was the "Charger." This bike, he said, "is entirely U.S.-made, moderately priced, boots up like a laptop and has about a 20-mile range."
Electric bikes on view were priced from about $600 to about $1,800. Daily rentals costs were about $20 to $35.
A natural fit
While the bikes were fun, exciting to ride and not too expensive, others like Ted Gee of Ka'anapali were in the market for a car. Gee drove over from West Maui specifically for the chance to take a ride.
"I've been looking at EVs for quite a while," he said, "--particularly the Nissan Leaf." After the demo he was enthusiastic. "It was great, easy to drive, no problems, smooth and all electric."
Next in line was Sandra Cleisz from Maui Meadows, who was also shopping, thinking of going all electric, and also leaning toward a Leaf. "I've been thinking about it for 10 years and I'm planning to buy some kind of a car within a year."
Those who wanted a free "ride-n-drives" could try the all-electric Nissan Leaf, extended-range electric Chevy Volt and the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.
Whether they rode the bikes, eyed the scooters, put their name in for a drawing, or rode around the block in a car, the people who tried the different vehicles had only good things to say about electric vehicles.
Summing up the philosophy of the day, Michael Snyder, president of the Hawaiian Electric Vehicle Network, said, "EVs in Hawai'i using renewable energy are a natural fit."