Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hawaii Says "Aloha" To Electric Cars

Being a couple of thousand miles away from the closest state makes the state of Hawaii something of an ideal, self-contained laboratory to try radical, new things.

Earlier this year, Hawaii kicked off the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative which seeks to cut the state's dependence on oil by 30%-90%. Now the state is proposing to parner with a California company, A Better Place, LLC, to build a network of vehicle charging stations that will facilitate the switch to electric cars throughout the state.

According to Rebecca Smith in the Wall Street Journal:

"Under the plan, consumers would buy or lease electric cars, and Better Place would supply recharging services and batteries. Consumers would have a choice of buying mileage plans -- which would include recharging services and battery swaps -- or being guests on the network and paying for each battery charge."

That all sounds reasonable--and doable when you consider the comparably short distances driven in Hawaii and the square mileage of the state itself-- but here's the rub:

If oil costs the state a lot every year ($7 billion), so does electricity. Most electricity in Hawaii comes from oil fired generation and the cost of a kilowatt hour of electricity in Hawaii is 3x the mainland (roughtly $.25/hr vs. $.08/hr). That means that renewable energy capacity will have to be ramped up fast.

Hawaii has a lot of sun and wind, but creating an actual alt-energy grid for the island state will mean serious infrastructure including underseas cabling, etc.