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DOE Planning Grant for Electric Vehicles Awarded to UHMC and DBEDT
The Department of Energy has awarded nearly $300,000 to University of Hawaiʻi Maui College—in partnership with the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT)—to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in Hawaiʻi. UHMC was the only college or university that received a community planning grant in this initiative. “Our strategy,” says Susan Wyche, UHMC Special Projects Coordinator, “is to capitalize on Maui’s unique features that will support the mass adoption of electric vehicles, such as our short driving distances, high cost of gasoline, and the large number of rental vehicles that make up our vehicle population. Our goal is to have the highest EV ownership per capita in the world, and to combine that with the greatest percentage of fossil free sources to charge those EVs. Maui will serve as a case study for other islands in Hawaii, and the world.”
The strategy required extensive recruiting of partners willing to dedicate personnel time to the planning process. Over 30 partners will participate, including car rental companies and car dealers, resort hotels, utility companies, local and state environmental agencies, organizations with large vehicle fleets, and renewable energy producers. In addition, UHMC will be consulting with the University of California San Diego and San Diego Regional Clean Fuels Coalition, which have been national leaders in developing renewable energy resources, innovative policies, and studies on consumer use of electric vehicles.
“We worked with UH Maui College to get this grant because Maui is an ideal location for EV adoption. Maui attracts some two million visitors per year, and 85 percent of these use rental cars. Visitors and local people can test drive the cars; this will help them decide whether they would like to become EV owners. Many Maui resorts are putting in charging stations, so the infrastructure will be available. And EVs can be plugged in at night to use Maui-generated wind energy, which is usually most available in the evenings,” said Estrella Seese, acting administrator of DBEDT’s Energy Office.
The connection to renewable energy is key for the project, because the goal is not just to encourage drivers to switch to electric vehicles—which would only mean exchanging where the fuel is burned from the combustible engine to the central energy plant—but to power the vehicles through renewable energy. “This grant fits with the College’s goals of providing leadership in sustainable solutions for island-based economies,” says Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto, “We look forward to cooperatively spearheading this effort which will contribute to our independence from imported fuels.”