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In Hawaii, Electric Vehicles Only Save You 5 Cents Per eGallon Unless You Go Solar

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 18

You Save Only 5 Cents by Going Electric in Hawaii...It's Time to go Solar

You Save Only 5 Cents by Going Electric in Hawaii…It’s Time to go Solar

Ever since the DoE launched its nifty eGallon calculator tool, there’s been a constant stream of articles showing that electric vehicles are far cheaper to “fuel” than gasoline automobiles in most US states.

Solar is the way to go in Hawaii

Solar is the way to go in Hawaii

However, that’s not the case in Hawaii.

Yes, it’s still cheaper per eGallon in Hawaii, but only by 5 cents.

First, let’s recap how the DoE calculates this eGallon figure:

“The price of an eGallon tells consumers how much it costs to drive an EV the same distance you could go on a gallon of unleaded gasoline in a similar car. It’s that simple. We take the average distance that a gasoline-powered vehicle can drive on a gallon of gas (28.2 miles for comparable 2012 model year cars), and then calculate how much it would cost to drive the average EV that same distance. Because electricity prices are a little different state to state, our eGallon tool shows how much an eGallon costs in your state, and compares it to the cost of gasoline. As you can see, on average, fueling your car with gasoline costs roughly 3 times more than fueling with electricity.”

Okay, so in Hawaii electrical rates are so high that “refueling” an EV costs nearly the same as a gasoline automobile.  There are ways to counter this, but first we should say that Hawaii is among the leading states in the nation both for electric vehicle adoption and for the number of public charging stations.  This may seem odd given the price of electricity there, but small islands are ideally suited for EVs and Hawaii is all about green, sustainable living.

Let’s go back to the ways in which Hawaii can counter the high costs of “fueling” electric vehicles.  One way would be at the state level, either by reducing electric rates overall or by enacting some sort of service to reduce the rates charged on electric vehicles.  Neither of these scenarios seem likely, but in the Aloha State, there’s one easily workable option: solar.

There’s plentiful sunshine in Hawaii and, even though the solar route would be done on the personal level (it’s unlikely the state will mount one on your roof free of charge), the savings would add up over time.  The upfront costs would take some time to recoup, but eventually “fueling” that electric vehicle would be close to free.

And that’s how you beat the eGallon calculator’s figures in Hawaii.  Save 5 cents?  No…how about never paying for an eGallon again?

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18 responses to "In Hawaii, Electric Vehicles Only Save You 5 Cents Per eGallon Unless You Go Solar"

  1. Paul says:

    Solar powered EVs are the best solution EVERYWHERE not just Hawaii.

    At $1.00 per watt installed a 3kw roof top PV system generates enough power to cover the average motorists annual mileage in an EV.

    Amortised the $3,00 up-front cost over the 25 years the PV system will last and it works out at something like $0.008 per km. Depending on your local fuel costs, it’s the equivalent of spending 1 years fuel bill to get 24 years worth of motoring FREE.

    I’m off to Hawaii next month so will report back from the ground once I’ve toured Oahu in the standard issue Nissan Leaf rental.

    1. Darius says:

      Hawaii is not the state having one of highest rates. It has absolutely highest retail power price almost double than second most expensive state Alaska:ce to invest i.e. Havaii, New York or California.
      State April 2013
      Hawaii 36.96
      Alaska 18.52
      New York 17.80
      Vermont 17.62
      Connecticut 17.40
      New Hampshire 16.64
      California 15.50
      New Jersey 15.44
      Massachusetts 14.94
      Michigan 14.37
      Rhode Island 14.36
      Maine 14.24
      Wisconsin 13.57
      Delaware 13.38
      Maryland 12.78
      Pennsylvania 12.60
      District of Columbia 12.36
      Nevada 12.28
      South Carolina 11.86
      Arizona 11.74
      Ohio 11.68
      Minnesota 11.58
      Colorado 11.58
      Kansas 11.55
      Texas 11.44
      Alabama 11.40
      Indiana 11.37
      New Mexico 11.33
      Mississippi 11.18
      Florida 11.14
      North Carolina 11.04
      Iowa 10.80
      Georgia 10.80
      Virginia 10.61
      Illinois 10.58
      Oklahoma 10.31
      Montana 10.15
      Wyoming 9.94
      Tennessee 9.88
      Utah 9.88
      Kentucky 9.87
      South Dakota 9.77
      Missouri 9.76
      Oregon 9.73
      West Virginia 9.67
      Nebraska 9.66
      Arkansas 9.38
      Louisiana 9.12
      Idaho 8.66
      North Dakota 8.62
      Washington 8.56

      It would be crazy talking about Solar in North Dakota when chepest possible levelized power price of comercial MW scale solar power instalation is no less than 14 cnt/kWh..

  2. Taser54 says:

    Here’s an article last fall on the challenges to installing solar in Hawaii. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/nov/17/nation/la-na-hawaii-solar-20121118

    Basically, solar is SO popular in Hawaii that the State is spending too much on tax credits AND they have too much power flowing from the currently installed PV systems. The Public utilities are struggling to handle it.

    So what happens? The State is cutting their tax credit in half (was 30ish percent). Look for solar to continue to be installed in Hawaii, just don’t expect the State fo cover as much of the cost.

    1. Mark H says:

      A person still can install a solar array to handle about 30% of their needs and not worry too much about selling the electricity. If you configure an array around your minimum usage during peak sun shine you are at least saving this much. Even if you can not get a contract with the power company in Hawaii this will put you ahead of just replacing just your light bulbs. Even if you end up giving a small margin of that energy back for free it should be worth it where electricity cost this much. We have a couple of Hawaii residents that follow this site that hopefully will comment.

      1. alohart says:

        The vast majority of Hawaii residents live in Honolulu. Land is expensive, so apartments dominate single-family housing. An apartment-dweller cannot install PV panels, and installing EVSE in an apartment parking stall is frequently prohibitively expensive. Apartment owners and condominium associations don’t seem motivated to install PV panels. There are few, if any, LEED buildings (maybe one on Maui). So I do not consider Hawaii to be “all about green, sustainable living”. The potential is certainly great, however.

  3. Darius says:

    In Hawaii you have special case. Better could be indication what is variable and what is fixed cost of power purchase. May be customers are purchasing so little power that so huge rate is necessary to cover not power generation but grid operation. Even customers having solar rooftops can not survive without grid.

    1. alohart says:

      With high A/C usage year-round, I suspect that Hawaii electricity customers are purchasing a considerable amount of power per customer.

      One reason that electricity is so expensive is because Hawaii’s electrical grids on each island are isolated making it impossible to buy electricity from an interconnected grid. So each electrical supplier must have excess capacity to account for unexpected (expensive) generator maintenance, peaks in demand, etc.

      Hawaii’s electricity suppliers use expensive imported petroleum and coal(!) as fuel. Wind, solar, and geothermal comprise a small percentage of the total generated capacity. There are currently no wave action or ocean water temperature differential electricity generators.

      Hawaii has a far greater potential for renewable energy generation than most U.S. states but has taken advantage of little of this potential despite high electricity costs.

  4. Cody says:

    Here’s your report on the ground from Hawaii:
    I live on the big island and just installed solar this year. We signed our power purchase lease agreement JJUST IN TIME last year before the tax credits went down. Thankfully we can now save about .15 cents a Kwh over what HELCo charges people on this island (.45 cents). This is still more than most Americans pay, but hey, we’ll take it! As an added bonus for you guys I am excited to tell you that we were able to oversize our system to cover the additional kw needed to charge an electric car battery.
    I can also report to you about owning a Chevrolet Volt and the issues with that. Yes! Just as the article says, charging your car is ridiculously close to the price of gas! However, from my calculations, I actually think that HELCO power (eGas) is MORE EXPENSIVE than a traditional gallon of gas. My math goes like this and is based off of .45 cents/kwh:
    I can go about 40 miles on one charge or 40 miles on a gallon of gas
    Helco would charge me $5.85 for that charge
    A gallon of Preium gas at Aloha Gas costs $4.55
    Grid power costs me $1.30 more to go 40 miles.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Thanks for that Cody! Good read

  5. DonH says:

    I live in Honolulu and EV’s are everywhere. Solar demand is very high, and the government has put in not only a large number of 240V chargers at all the malls and gov buildings, but there are four 480V quick chargers all within a radius of about 12 miles. There is one QC at the Wyndham Resort on Lewers St in Waikiki, that most people don’t know about. Being that the island is only about 40 to 50 miles long, you can drive virtually anywhere without a problem.

    1. alohart says:

      Governments have installed a few public charging stations in government parking garages, but private companies, e.g., Volta, Better Place, Charge Point, Blink, have installed the vast majority of public charging stations in an initial rush that seems to have subsided. Better Place’s charging stations, by far the largest number, were bought by OpConnect which has done nothing obvious with these charging stations. Two of OpConnect’s 4 Ala Moana Center charging stations have been broken for many weeks despite my reporting them repeatedly. But I can’t complain too much since almost all public charging stations are free to use. Unfortunately, many of them are very busy making finding an available one difficult at times.

  6. The DOE eGallon Calculator is based on old electric rate data. Hawaii has recently introduced EV charging tariffs for fast charging. http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/news/2013/07/10/hawaii-regulators-approve-new-electric.html

    A few years ago U.S. had just couple thousand PEVs, now over 100,000 PEVs are on the roads. Times are a changing… with EVs fast charging!

    1. alohart says:

      I hope these new electric rates will result in the installation of more public charging stations. After the initial rush, I’m not seeing many new public charging stations being installed. Many existing public charging stations are very busy and frequently ICE’d decreasing the certainty of finding one available when needed.

      The state should consider subsidizing the cost of installing EVSE in apartment dwellers’ parking spaces. Fortunately, state law prohibits an apartment or condominium association from refusing to approve the installation of EVSE in a resident’s parking stall at the resident’s expense unless no excess electrical capacity is available, but the cost of doing so is frequently prohibitive thus almost eliminating the high percentage of apartment dwellers from the pool of prospective EV owners.

  7. Bill Howland says:

    Neither in the business article nor this article were the rates mentioned.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Hey Bill,

      Hawaii energy is tricky because their is actually 3 separate energy companies operating on the islands…with some very strong variance from region to region. I can break them down separately though for you from 2012 averages:

      Hawaiian Electric Company (Island of Oahu)

      Rate Schedule 2012 avg. cents per kWh
      Residential 35.10
      “G” Small Power Use Business 36.50
      “J” Medium Power Use Business 31.77
      “P” Large Power Use Business 30.11
      “DS” Large Power Use Business, Directly Served 28.02
      “F” Street and Park Lighting 32.92


      Hawaii Electric Light Company (Island of Hawaii)

      Rate Schedule 2012 avg. cents per kWh
      Residential 42.47
      “G” Small Power Use Business 45.16
      “J” Medium Power Use Business 39.39
      “P” Large Power Use Business 35.70
      “F” Street Lighting 41.06


      Maui Electric Company (Maui County)

      Rate Schedule – Maui – Molokai – Lanai
      2012 avg. cents per kWh
      Residential 38.71 46.13 46.61
      “G” Small Power Use Business 41.70 53.68 50.37
      “J” Medium Power Use Business 38.13 45.81 49.17
      “P” Large Power Use Business 35.47 39.98 46.04
      “F” Street Lighting 36.87 44.20 46.04

      1. Darius says:

        Jay Col,

        The dramatic increase of el. retail price was reported during 2012. 2011 Hawaii retail price was quite in range of U.S. spread- 25 cnt/kWh. Very little actual data. Old data tells net generation and consumtion 10 TWh. Majority of fuel liquid petrolium. Without any doubt that is reason of power price level. No indication of dispachable new capacity or shifthigh to other fuels. No wind power and emphasis on solar which never has positive effect on power price. Not clear whether Hawaii islands are interconected.

    2. alohart says:

      In my Honolulu apartment which submeters its commercial rate service among all apartments thus resulting in lower electricity rates than would be available to an individual customer, I pay around 30¢/kWh. That’s among the lowest in the state with the much smaller populations of the neighbor islands paying considerably more (see above the 45¢/kWh that Cody reported paying on Hawaii Island).

      Nevertheless, if I had been paying for the electricity to charge my EV (so far, I’ve used only free public charging stations), it would have been considerably more expensive to have driven my i-MiEV than my 2000 Honda Insight hybrid (62 lifetime mpg in Honolulu) which I shipped to my apartment in Sweden where it is ideal considering the high cost of gasoline in Sweden. But I prefer my i-MiEV over my Insight due to its lower routine maintenance needs and smooth, quiet driving, so I would choose an EV over an ICE vehicle regardless of fuel cost differences.

  8. Spec says:

    That gasoline price is wrong. They do not pay $3.74 for gas in Hawaii! It is all above $4/gallon.

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