Across Hawaii, gas is over $5 a gallon, enticing some to electric vehicles

Gas prices could remain high for some time. Meanwhile, car dealers are struggling to keep up with demand for electric vehicles.
Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 6:03 AM HST|Updated: Mar. 17, 2022 at 4:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Soaring gas prices are leading some motorists to rethink how they get around.

Honolulu average regular gasoline rose more than 4 cents Wednesday night, to reach $5.025 per gallon, based on AAA daily price research. It is, for Hawaii’s biggest city, a new record.

AAA reported average regular at $5.184 in Hilo, $5.259 in Kahului, and $5.307 in Lihue — all up 2 or 3 cents from the day before.

Molokai resident Kathy Tancayo photographed a Kaunakakai gas station sign posting a price of $5.88. Gas prices are routinely higher than the AAA averages on Molokai and Lanai, and in other remote parts of the state.

Average Honolulu regular was $4.415 a month ago and $3.441 a year ago.

Car dealers say the price of gas is boosting demand for electric vehicles. The problem is, they can take some time to get a hold of.

Cutter Volvo in Waipahu says that all of the electric vehicles that arrive on the lot are bought before they get there.

“Every one that we’ve got coming in right now has been pre-sold,” said Gary Scheuring, Cutter Volvo General Manager.

Scheuring sees that demand going up.

“Since the gas price had been going up as much as they have, we’ve really seen an increase or a spike in floor traffic,” Scheuring said.

But sometimes it can take months for his dealership to get ahold of an electric car.

“With the microchip issue that’s been going on for quite a while, all the manufacturers are having the same problem with that,” Scheuring said. “So a lot of the cars are being ordered. The inventory levels have shrunk to near nothing physically on the ground.”

Kurt Speas sold Nissan EVs for years. His current company, A-Z Bus Sales Hawaii, has also helped the city get a fleet of electric buses.

Right now, he’s waiting for the electric Ford F-150.

“It is supposed to be here, probably the beginning of the second quarter next year is what they say,” said Speas.

He said when gas prices go up, more people are interested in Electric Vehicles.

“You’re gonna see people run towards electric vehicles, new and used, and I think that’s going to be, I think that’s going to be a trend,” said Speas.

According to the Hawaii Monthly Energy Trends Report, electric vehicles make up only 2.3 percent of the vehicles on the road, but that’s 33 more than there were last year.

And with more popularity and less supply, prices are going up.

“Well, it’s not that much different for electric vehicles than it is for almost all vehicles right now,” said Dave Rolf, the executive director of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association. “Even including used vehicles, there’s just an inventory shortage. Pretty much all around and every dealer you talk to, they’ll say they can sell the cars they get.”

“It really is the way of the future,” Scheuring said. “Fossil fuels and oil and all that is really dictating that an electric vehicle is the better alternative.”

Gas prices in Hawaii are driven by many factors including the state’s high real estate prices and the cost of shipping fuel by barge to other islands after refining at the Par Pacific refinery on Oahu.

In ordinary times it is typical for crude oil price trends to affect retail prices 60 days out. In the current situation, affected by OPEC production constraints, COVID factory closures in China, and supply disruptions stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, crude prices have driven gas prices in a shorter timeline.

Crude oil topped $130 a barrel last week, plunged to $94 a barrel this week, and rose to $102 a barrel this morning, based on West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark crude.

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