Newest electric vehicle charging station targets urban condo dwellers

Newest electric vehicle charging station targets urban condo dwellers
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii drivers are embracing electric vehicles. In less than four years, the number of electric vehicles has grown from 600 to 4,000, experts say.

But demand has outpaced the availability of charging supply, and condo dwellers are finding themselves scrambling for available charging stations.

Statewide, there are only about 500 public charging ports. State law requires parking lots with more than 100 spaces to provide an electric vehicle charging station and designated stall, but lack of enforcement has lead to limited compliance.

And uncertainty about where to power up has prevented some from buying an electric vehicle. Those with the fewest options: People living in apartment buildings who may not be able to install a charger at home.

"These public charging stations, particularly fast-charging stations, can be a real critical bridge to helping a person go out and feel comfortable purchasing an electric vehicle," said Shem Lawlor, of the Blue Planet Foundation.

On Thursday, Hawaiian Electric unveiled its latest public fast-charging station near its location on Ward Avenue. A session will cost $6.50 during most of the day, but will be slightly more during peak times (from 5 p.m.  to 9 p.m.) or slightly less if used during overnight hours.

HECO officials are hoping more drivers will start charging during the day.

Depending on the model of the car, the fast-charging station can power up an electric vehicle with zero battery to nearly 80 percent in about half an hour.

The Ward Avenue location is aimed at serving nearby apartment residents or office workers.

Greg Jackson bought his electric vehicle in 2014, and says he wouldn't trade it.

"I haven't been to a gas station in almost two years," said Jackson, who has a charger installed in his garage.

But, he added, driving an electric vehicle does require a strategy.

"You learn to sort of plan your trips before you leave your house. When I do have to find charging stations, sometimes I've found in the last year that it's become more difficult because I just think more people are starting to buy (EV) cars," he said.

Experts say newer models with longer ranges and lower prices are creating more interest. And that's only expected to grow.

"I think we're going to expect to see a double or quadrupling of the number of EV's in the next few years," Lawlor said.

Alan Oshima, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric, said daytime charging would actually allow the company to add more solar onto the power grid. "The more uses for electricity during the day, the better off we'll all be to getting to our total clean energy future," he said.

In keeping with that goal, Hawaiian Electric has partnered with Oahu Transportation Services to seek federal funding for electric buses. There are also plans to install three fast-charging stations on Hawaii Island by May.

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