Auto experts say electric vehicles haven't lost luster

Auto experts say electric vehicles haven't lost luster

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)

Last year 876 new electric vehicles were registered in Hawaii. That was 102 more than were sold in 2013. But it followed a year when EV sales in the state surged by 434.

Tony Nissan's Kurt Speas has sold over 600 electric vehicles in four years. He said the market in Hawaii remains steady but has leveled out.

"I have plenty of people that are totally interested in the car," he said.

But those interested customers want Hawaiian Electric to approve their rooftop photovoltaic systems before they buy an electric car. That's one factor that's affecting electric vehicle sales.

"They get their systems built for them in anticipation of getting an electric vehicle, so it'll pay for everything," Speas said.

Dave Rolf of Hawaii Automobile Dealers' Association said lower gas prices have given customers incentive to buy conventional cars.

"They went out and said, 'I could go out and buy a new car,'" he said. "The focus of electricity for a moment, the head was shifted away."

But it could be shifting back. Gas prices are inching higher, HECO has agreed to connect more solar customers to the grid, and the state is due to get a network of quick charging sites.

"You can top off an electric vehicle in just a few minutes instead of hours," Rolf said.

"If we have that here, because we don't have long driving distances, you're going to see more condo adoption and sales will just go through the roof," Speas said.

Lawmakers are also putting pressure on condominium associations to approve requests for charging stations in their buildings, plus coming models will go farther on a fill-up.

"I think at that time you're really going to see a huge spike in sales," Speas said.

That could mean Hawaii's EV industry is due for another jolt.

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