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Hawaii and Better Place Sign Agreement

The state of Hawaii has become the latest addition to a growing list of countries and regions to partner with Better Place to establish a market and supporting infrastructure for electric cars. (Earlier post.)

Better Place Hawaii deployment map. Click to enlarge.

Better Place plans to begin permitting for the network in Hawaii within the next year and begin introducing vehicles within 18 months, with mass-market availability of electric cars in 2012. Hawaiian Electric Companies and Better Place Hawaii also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate on the infrastructure and energy needs to power Better Place’s network of public charging spots and battery swapping stations with renewable energy.

Hawaii spends up to $7 billion a year on oil imports and drivers pay some of the highest gasoline prices in the US. The carbon produced from consumer vehicles accounts for nearly 20% of the state’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

The arrival of Better Place Hawaii furthers the progress of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) signed in January, with the goal to meet the state’s energy needs from 70% clean energy by 2030, as well as fostering economic growth and building the workforce of the future.


Mr. Environment

With congress blocking the construction of power plants, when electric cars really start to become popular, good luck charging your car. Thanks Pelosi/Reid for blocking progress!

joe shmoe

it will be a very long time before there isn't enough spare electrical capacity at night to charge electric cars.

It's not quite as clear cut as that Mr E:

Kit P

About 75% of electricity in Hawaii is generated with oil.

"it will be a very long time before there isn't enough spare electrical capacity at night to charge electric cars."

Given the range of today's electric cars (about 25, maybe up to 40 miles) people will have to charge their cars during the day - peak usage hours. California has been having rolling brown-outs due to the lack of electricity. If you are unaware of this do a simple web search. The problem is here, today - not some fantasy off in the future.

Interesting link:

"...if all PHEV owners charged their vehicles at 5 p.m., at 6 kW of power—up to 160 large power plants would be needed nationwide to supply the extra electricity..."

Hawaii is a perfect candidate for the new generation of small, shed-sized nuclear reactors from companies like Toshiba. They produce plutonium and even if a terrorist struck them, they are easy to contain.

Just as Hawaii increases its use of wind, solar and tidal, they will still need power when the wind isn't blowing, the sun isn't shining and the tides aren't coming in. Oil is not the answer. Safer, smaller nukes are. At least until something better and less environmentally taxing exists.


Ooops... I meant to say "They DON'T produce plutonium"!



We must remember that when if comes to EV's fantasy is reality. Wind NEVER stops blowing so solar is great. The sun never sets and is always at peak production angle so solar is ideal. What happens when wind a solar are put into practice to generate electricity to power out EV's doesn't matter. It's one's hope that counts.

Kit P

Does anyone know if Hawaii has a climate suitable for growing sugar cane?


The PBP reminds me of Microsoft Windows (or DOS) in early stages, in the proces of establishing market monopoly with a proprietary technology.
Once they establish wider market acceptance, it will be very difficult for other players to compete.
Behind PBP must be some big international investors with good connections at highest places, the only way to explain the ease with which they sign deals with governments around the world.

The lack of established standards for charging stations allows PBP the initial penetration with their own technology.

Interesting they didn't sign a deal with French government. French national electricity company EDF is trying to develop their own standard and nationwide charging network in cooperation with domestic and foreign car makers.
They're too clever to be duped by PBP.


"About 75% of electricity in Hawaii is generated with oil. "

It's actually higher -- in 2005, it was 87%

But Hawaii has one of the most aggressive RPS requirements in the country

2011 10%
2016 15%
2021 25%
2030 40%

If you believe that they'll reach those targets, then moving to EV is a net carbon reduction because instead of using 100% oil to move the car, you'll be using 95% fossil fuels now, no more than 90% in 2011, no more than 85% in 2016, etc. Again, that's if you believe that those targets will be hit, including the additional generation requirement to deal with the fuel for the EVs themselves. This, of course, ignores that it's more efficient to burn oil in a large power plant, transmit the electricity by power lines, charge the battery, and run an electric motor from it than it is to burn oil to move the vehicle directly.


"We must remember that when if comes to EV's fantasy is reality... It's one's hope that counts."

Don't be silly Bobob. See, these vehicles have neato devices called batteries which allows them to charge when the sun is shining or the wind blowing, and to move electricity back to the grid on dark windless periods. Of course, you're also ignoring the geothermal potential in Hawaii [the earth doesn't ever cool], and that biomass is currently the largest source of non-hydro renewables nationally [and Hawaii has some].

In fact, in 2006 6.4% of Hawaii's electricity was generated by renewable sources. Of that fraction, 88% came from hydro, geothermal, MSW biogen/landfill gas, and other biomass. Sure there'll be growth in wind, but the reality is that much of renewable energy production is either constant or can be turned on when it's dark and windless outside.

In short, your childish cynical rant does recognize a legitimate engineering problem which is, in fact, being solved precisely because renewable energy generation comes from so many different sources with vastly different properties.


"Does anyone know if Hawaii has a climate suitable for growing sugar cane?"

Given the enormous value of land in Hawai`i which is neither beach nor rocky hill/volcano, I'd bet the limiting factor isn't climate but rather the cost of arable land.

Henry Gibson

It must be considered that the question about sugar cane was meant as a joke. Hawaii was once only known for its sugar cane. The sugar cane growers in Hawaii were responsible for Hawaii being annexed to the US after the US government helped them overthrow the Hawaian Monarchy so that sugar could be sold to the US without taxes. ..HG..

P Schager

Hawaii is one of those ideal places for the early modern electric car. Range is such a minor challenge that it's unclear to me why they really need fancy services from PBP such as battery swap stations. If you can get about 150 miles into the car you can pretty much go anywhere on even the Big Island and back, and just charge at home base. Battery technology requirements are relaxed by the absence of temperature extremes.

It would make a lot of sense. The impact on local real estate would be very positive because of the reduction in noise and air pollution, and even now amortized solar panels are a less expensive source of energy for a car (normal efficiency-adjusted) than gasoline has come to be (especially the new non-recession price demoed this summer). In a few years as solar becomes a large-scale and more mature technology, petroleum and gasoline won't have a competitive chance. Cars would charge mostly by day. The (bio)oil-fired generators they already have (or V2G cars) can serve as backup. Use E85 from sugar cane, from Brazil. If they really want a lot of energy they're surrounded by it: offshore wind, current, wave, solar and aquaculture energy are all possible and would be attractive in Hawaii before most anywhere else. Over the horizon, of course.

Cool Earth Solar has an example of a technology that looks like it should be adaptable to an offshore variant. Norsk Hydro, Blue H and others are building the floating wind turbines. Now all they have to do is drive down the cost of submarine power cables, but in the global fiber internet age, that shouldn't be a daunting task either.

Hawaii should have a local battery recycling infrastructure. Maybe PBP will help them with that.

Kit P

I was really surprised to hear that BEV could reduce air pollution in Hawaii because I did not think they had an air pollution problem. So I checked AIR NOW web site and sure enough I was wrong.

“Communities near the Kilauea volcano are particularly affected by increased levels of SO2 caused by the recent volcanic activity.”


As others have pointed out - Hawaii is a perfect site for demonstrating all manner of renewables. With the right funding and political will, geothermal should be able to supply 25-35% of Hawaii's energy over the next decade. Wind, solar, tidal/wave energy are all abundant. The DOE would do well to put special effort into growing alternative energy business in Hawaii.

It would also make an attractive site for a salt water algal oil/alcohol project. A good pilot program would attract plenty of attention and begin to address the liquid fuel from algae challenge.

Roger Davis

As a resident of Honolulu I can tell you that Hawaii has lots of things both for and against it in terms of renewables. The last few months have seen a lot of local announcements generating much excitement, but it remains to be seen exactly how it all develops.

First the cons. One, all islands are on separate disconnected grids, with the vast bulk of the population on Oahu and totally drunk on NIMBY, i.e., forget about any large wind farm in sight of anyone at all (and don't even *say* the word 'nuclear', shed-sized, shoebox-sized or otherwise). This will make renewable backup very difficult. There is talk of a subsea cable linking Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Lanai, but it will be very expensive and no one has yet found the money for it. One big reason geothermal has not been developed on the Big Isle is that the B.I. already has plenty of electricity and there is no way to get any excess power to Oahu where it's needed, and no one is even *talking* about a subsea cable to the B.I. yet. Second, it's the economy, stupid! Our state is about to fall off the peak oil cliff. It is largely dependent upon tourism which is entirely dependent upon cheap airfares to the mainland and Japan. Those are actually making a brief comeback because of falling oil prices, but it won't last. There is going to be tremendous job loss occurring here over the next 20 years and it will be extremely hard to finance any new infrastructure whatsoever.

On the plus side, we do have abundant renewable resources, although some are highly overrated. Wave energy will never be more than peanuts IMHO, and local currents and tides are too little for useful application. The only ocean energy technology that makes sense here is OTEC, and it does look like plans are in the works for Lockheed to build a 10MW pilot plant. Solar and wind are also very promising, although offshore wind is still a bit out of reach because the water gets deep here *very* fast, and even the best of the current 'deep offshore' wind technologies are marginal or worse at typical near-shore depths here. Yes, of course we can grow cane, but there are very serious water issues and many of us feel that we would be better off using our ag land to grow our food rather than grow fuel to fly our food here across a very big ocean.

I am hopeful that our energy problems are solvable in Hawaii, but anyone who thinks it will be easy is deluded.

Kit P

Thanks for the post Roger

Anaerobic digesters are said to be very good in tropical climates because the solids hold nutrients and moisture in the soil. About 10 years ago, there was a small anaerobic digester in Hawaii used for food waste but the operator I talked to said they got sued out of business by NIMBYs.

Han Dringor

"There is going to be tremendous job loss occurring here over the next 20 years and it will be extremely hard to finance any new infrastructure whatsoever."

Same thing in Pacific Rim and mainland China. Sounds like collapse all around. What are we to do?

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