Can the electric vehicle get us to one of the most popular tourist destinations on Maui?
Nonresidents might glance at a map of Maui and quickly conclude we are safe from "range anxiety." At its widest points, Maui is just 48 miles long and 26 miles wide. "It's easy! You can't get lost, drive too far, or accidentally cross the border into another county or state."
But Maui's roads are far from straight. The scenic road to Hana is not only famously long and winding, but also full of ups and downs. So how much "charge" do you need to get to Hana?
You can rent a VOLT at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Bio-Beetle ECO Rental Car in Kahului.
Photo: Hawaiian Electric Vehicle Network.
Last summer, local musician Joel Katz decided to experience the "electric drive" to Hana. For what he would spend on gas going from Central Maui to Hana and back, he rented a Chevy VOLT from Bio-Beetle Eco Rental Cars. Before making the trip, he made sure he could use an outdoor 110-120V outlet at Travaasa Hotel to charge overnight. The 10 kW battery (with another 6kW for reserve) provided an average of 30 to 45 miles "electric range." When that ran out, the plug-in series hybrid car automatically switched to gasoline.
Six months later, he tried the 100 percent electric Nissan LEAF, which has double the electric range of the VOLT. He started with a complete charge before he left home in Waiehu, arrived in Hana with the dashboard indicator showing 18 miles of charge left, and plugged the LEAF adaptor immediately into a standard three-pronged outdoor socket for the overnight charge. The next morning, the completely charged EV was ready for the return journey.
What this tells us is that you can get to Hana on a full charge in the LEAF, but it depends on how you drive. And it's not possible to return on the same day unless there's a DC Fast Charger or a fully charged EV already waiting in Hana for you to use.
The number of miles left isn't the only indicator of range for EVs. It also depends on how many passengers are in the car, if the AC is on, etc. The steeper the elevation, the more power and range an EV consumes going uphill, although it does get some power back through regenerative braking when going downhill.
The newly released Maui EVA report states: "Maui is uniquely positioned to deploy EVs, not only because of its mild weather, short distances, and high gasoline prices, but because the visitor industry is in an advantageous position to lead EV purchasing through car rental fleets, car sharing and installation of charging infrastructure at hotels, vacation lodging and tourist destinations. Resident drivers will be able to take advantage of these amenities, and embrace the increasing variety of EV models and types of vehicles slated to appear on the market in the near future."
For now, Maui residents are testing the range of EVs on Maui, paving the way for visitors to experience EV in paradise.
Rent an EV at Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Kahului by calling (808) 871-1511 ($39.99). EVs are also available at Bio-Beetle ECO Rental Car in Kahului by calling (808) 873-6121 ($49.99). (These kama'aina Special Daily Pre-Tax Rates are based on availability and advanced reservations.)
To download the 105-page Maui EVA report, visit www.mauieva.org/report/revised.pdf.
Anne Ku is the director of Maui Electric Vehicle Alliance, a project of UH Maui College. For more information, visit www.mauieva.org.