Go EV-Motoring in Hawaii

A private company is called Better Place is helping lead the way toward EV-Motoring in Hawaii. The group is a venture-backed entity with funding from Israel Corp., Morgan Stanley, Ofer Group, VantagePoint Venture Partners, and private investors concerned about global climate change. The company recently installed their first charging spot in Tel Aviv, Israel.

While Hawaii has long welcomed eco-tourists to its shores, to the environmentally minded the world over, the state’s motto “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono,” can now assume new meaning. The phrase translated means, “The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness.” Since so many environmental leaders view their role in this world as righteous, they should be applauding the state’s recent move to allow a private company to begin installing an infrastructure to support EV-motoring. The state expects to have multiple battery charging and battery exchange stations in operation by 2012.

The way Better Place sees the market, main obstacle to the mass adoption of electric cars is driving range and costly batteries. Better Place eliminates these barriers by retaining ownership of the batteries that individuals essentially lease through a subscription that includes access to battery charging spots and battery exchange stations.

The Better Place team doesn’t think it’s prudent to wait for the development of long-range batteries, so it’s moving forward developing a practical infrastructure utilizing existing lithium-ion battery technology. Their concept recognizes the driving range limits (around 100 miles) of current Li-ion powered EVs, and addresses these head on. Hawaii’s diminutive road system (compared to continental states) provides a manageable geographic area for implementation.

First, Better Place installs charging stations all around the geographic areas they service—no mystery here. Second, and this idea is the clever one, Better Place also erects fully-automated battery swapping stations that can replace a drained battery with a freshly-charged unit in under four minutes. Combined, these charging and swapping stations address the limited range of li-ion EVs.

Currently (no pun intended), vehicles identified by Better Place for use in Hawaii include an electrified Nissan Rogue and the Renault-Nissan Alliance. A first prototype of the Alliance EV debuted in Tel Aviv in January 2008 (this should be a better car than the old Renault/AMC Alliance we suffered with in the 1980s). According to Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, other manufacturers that are heading toward production of EVs that are compatible with the Better Place infrastructure include Mitsubishi (i MiEV) and Subaru (Stella).

AutomobileMag.com has yet to confirm if the Renault has been submitted for US vehicle certifications, but we’ll provide news on this as it becomes available.