What would it be like to have a zero-emission electric vehicle (EV) as my primary mode of transportation?
This was my burning question after I drove the 100 percent electric Nissan LEAF during a two-day car rental in Honolulu last spring. Although I enjoyed the silent ride and zero-idling when stopped, I wasn't sure how it would fare over longer distances.
Concerned about the LEAF's 90-mile range and my lack of time to charge, I chose the Chevy Volt when I took visitors on an all-day, multi-site tour around Maui a few months later.
But to really understand the EV, I knew I needed to experience the charge and so-called "range anxiety" of new EV drivers.
So I took the LEAF on a two-week vacation. The first three days were spent familiarizing myself with the car and charging stations in Central Maui. The next five days on the West Side could be described as a treasure hunt for places to charge. To prepare for this trip, I obtained the following items:
An updated list of charging stations on Maui--downloadable from the Maui EVA Website;
A key fob, also known as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) or swipe card, for the one and only DC Fast Charger on the island. You'll need to leave a $20 cash deposit and register at the Maui County Business Resource Center in Maui Mall;
A key fob for the Better Place charging network, the largest charging network in the state, with seven charging locations on Maui;
And a swipe card for Chargepoint Network, the largest charging network in the U.S., with two locations on Maui.
The boutique hotel in Napili I had booked six months earlier offered no charging access close enough to the parking lot. This meant I had to rely on visiting charging stations near restaurants and other locales. The near-full charge from my home in Wailuku carried us all the way to Lahaina, with a stopover lunch at Star Noodle. Dinner at Sansei in Kapalua coincided nicely with charging the now half-empty battery at Ritz Carlton's new PEP station a short walk away.
The next day, we met with one of Maui's earliest EV adopters, who took great risks in buying a LEAF at a time when there were no charging stations on the West Side except his own. He is thrilled to see public charging stations installed at 20 locations now, including the DC Fast Charger at the County Building in Wailuku.
Anne Ku is the director of Maui Electric Vehicle Alliance (Maui EVA), the name of the project funded by a Department of Energy's Clean Cities planning grant, awarded to UH Maui College (lead), Department of Business Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT), Honolulu Clean Cities and UC San Diego. For more information, visit www.mauieva.org.