Photography by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7
The County of Hawaii has rolled out five 2012 Chevy Volts that comprise its new electric vehicle fleet.
In an ceremony Tuesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center, about 60 members of the public, dignitaries, and county employees joined Mayor Billy Kenoi for a blessing of the vehicles by Kumu Keala Ching.
These plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are a great fit for Hawaii County, where trips can be as long as 200 miles one way. For trips under 30 miles, the vehicles can run solely on battery power charged by the LEED Silver-certified West Hawaii Civic Center’s 250 kilowatt photovoltaic array.
A gasoline-powered generator with a nine-gallon tank allows an additional range of 300-400 miles, depending on topography.
Based on their past usage of county vehicles, vehicles will be issued to the Departments of Parks and Recreation, Planning, and the Office of Housing and Community Development. The remaining vehicles are assigned to the Mayor’s Office and available for official use by any department.
“We want everybody to use it, we want to test it, everybody will log it – where you drove, how it drove, miles driven, just to make sure that we can grow the county fleet and have it be an electrical fleet, especially when we have free electricity that powers our building and now powers our vehicles,” said Kenoi, referring to the photovoltaic system at the West Hawaii Civic Center.
“If there’s any controversy or discussion over who uses which car when, we’re going to resort to the great equalizer of decision making since small kid time – jan ken po,” Kenoi said. “Paper, scissors, stones – no two out of three!”
While each vehicle costs $47,000, the County will offset that price with a $4,500 credit per car through the state’s EV-Ready rebate program. The cost of each vehicle also includes a bumper-to-bumper warranty for seven years.
Hawaii Island pays some of the highest fuel costs in the United States. In fiscal year 2011, the county’s transportation fuel bill was $7 million. These prices are likely to rise in the future, so making this transition to more efficient vehicles will help control these escalating costs.
“The vehicles couldn’t have come at a better time as we see rising fuel prices,” Kenoi said. “If you look at our budget and you see how much we spend on fuel for the county, we said, let’s start with a five vehicle fleet. We will slowly and incrementally begin implementation of a larger electric vehicle and hybrid fleet here in the County of Hawaii. It’s not something we should do, it’s something we must do.”
Prior to purchase of the vehicles, the county received a grant from Better Place Inc. to have three charging stations installed at the West Hawaii Civic Center. Each charging station can handle two electric vehicles at a time.
The Chevy Volt typically takes 3.5 hours for full charge. Available charging stations will be open for public use during regular business hours.
The photovoltaic array at the West Hawaii Civic Center has the capability to provide energy to the building and charge up to 30 EVs or 60 PHEVs. It is anticipated that additional charging stations will be added to maximize the use of the 250 kW photovoltaic array.
An October 2011 report issued by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “Evaluation of West Hawaii Civic Center’s Transportation and Energy Use,” supports with economic analysis the integration of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles into the county fleet. The county has also worked with HELCO to coordinate vehicle deployment as well as charging station infrastructure.
“Today is but another step forward in all of us, as a community, taking a collective step toward removing ourselves from our dependency on fossil fuel,” Kenoi said. “We recognize that we cannot continue to maintain status quo. Business as usual is not acceptable. And we cannot point and ask people to be more energy efficient if we, the county, aren’t doing our part.”