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The Chicken or the Egg?

Which comes first, electric vehicles or charging stations?

September 5, 2013
Anne Ku - Maui Electric Vehicle Alliance , Maui Weekly

If you are an electric vehicle (EV) owner, potential owner or business property owner, you may be interested in the developing challenges and solutions regarding EV infrastructure. On Thursday, Sept. 12, Maui EVA will hold a public electric vehicle forum on current challenges and opportunities facing Maui and the rest of Hawai'i.

The discussion panel includes John Gartner, research director leading Navigant Research's Smart Transportation program, and Ethan Elkind, climate policy associate at the UC Berkeley School of Law and the UCLA School of Law. They both will also be speakers at the first EV panel at the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit 9 on Wednesday, Sept. 11. They will be joined by Doug Teeple, founder and president of the Big Island EV Association.

No reservations are required to attend this free event, which will be held in room 103 in the Kalama building (next to the library) at the University of Hawai'i Maui College from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Article Photos

EV In Paradise
Anne Ku
Maui Electric Vehicle Alliance

These experts will address the classic chicken-or-egg question regarding EVs: Which comes first, electric vehicles or charging stations?

Charging stations are a significant expense for businesses, and some may hesitate to invest in advance of demand. But without the charging infrastructure available for clients, rental car companies are reluctant to provide electric vehicles that they may not conveniently recharge, and private owners may decide to wait until they are sure that they have access to charging stations at their regular destinations.

So how do we crack the chicken or the egg problem?

1.Install charging stations which are highly visible and in areas of heavy use, especially where visitors can easily locate them. Hotels, malls and tourist destinations are obvious places to begin.

2.Coordinate car purchases with charging station installations in the form of EV packages. Rental car companies and hotels and other lodging sites can work together in a win-win situation.

3.Encourage workplaces to invest in charging stations for their employees. EV owners need to communicate their interest and needs to their employers. Large employers may be interested in EV-share programs, or other incentives that benefit employees.

4.Encourage businesses to install charging stations where people spend time (restaurants, golf courses and recreation centers). EV owners need to let businesses know that this will encourage them to be customers.

But there is one solution that is inexpensive, easily implemented (in most cases) and often overlooked. Businesses and workplaces can use existing, standard, exterior 110-120V outlets to accommodate early demand (these are referred to as Level 1 chargers). This may require some signage and care in choosing a safe location.

Users also need to be informed about the rules. For example, whether or not the outlet is for emergency situations only, is regularly available, or how the EV owner can get access. But every EV has a plug that will work, and most businesses could extend this courtesy with relatively little inconvenience.

Many business owners may not realize that, according to State of Hawai'i laws, if they have a property with 100 or more parking stalls for public accommodation, then they must provide EV charging access and designate EV parking. Through federal funding and state programs, 20 locations with Level 2 chargers (220-240V) were largely installed by ARRA-funded Better Place and Aerovironment on Maui a year ago. Though this has not been actively enforced, it is state law, and enforcement may step up as EV owners complain about lots that are not in compliance.

While Level 2 charging enables EV drivers to travel beyond the home and workplace, it is the arrival of DC fast chargers (480V) that address the "range anxiety" of EV drivers. For example, a Nissan LEAF can be 80 percent charged in 30 minutes.

Maui County was the first to install a fast charger at its Wailuku County Building in September 2012. More recently, Hitachi has installed 20 fast chargers--four at five separate locations, which also gives Maui one of the highest concentrations of fast chargers per capita in the country.

Anne Ku is the director of Maui Electric Vehicle Alliance (Maui EVA), the name of the project funded by a Department of Energy's Clean Cities planning grant, awarded to UH Maui College (lead), Department of Business Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT), Honolulu Clean Cities, and UC San Diego. For more information, visit



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