Nissan electric car headed to Hawaii
BY Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawai'i's foray into electric cars is getting a jump start from Nissan Motor Co., which says the state will be one of the initial markets for sales of its mass-produced electric car, the Leaf.
The car is expected to go on sale here early next year and Nissan and the state of Hawai'i are working toward a partnership to promote development of an electric vehicle network.
"Hawai'i is going to be one of the earlier launch markets," said Katherine Zachary, Nissan North America spokeswoman.
"We're letting the rollout be dictated by interest."
Electric cars occupy an important position in Hawai'i's efforts to wean itself off imported oil during the next two decades. The state wants to get 70 percent of its energy from clean resources, including better efficiency and renewable energy, by 2030.
The efforts include passing legislation that requires large parking lots to reserve spaces for electric cars, and other laws allowing the vehicles to park for free at state and county facilities and drive in HOV lanes with the proper vehicle plates.
The state also has been meeting with various charging companies, vehicle manufacturers and dealers to pave the way for adoption. One projection done for the state estimates as many as 10,000 cars on the roads will be electric powered in the next five years.
"We've laid the foundation for electric vehicles to come to Hawai'i in large numbers and the industry is responding to that," said Ted Peck, state Energy Administrator.
"They all recognize there's a business to be made here."
Peck said Mitsubishi has been talking about selling an electric car here. There's also been interest expressed in Hawai'i by General Motors and Ford, Peck said.
The Leaf was announced last year and has been positioned as an affordable electric vehicle with an advanced lithium-ion battery pack and a 100-mile range. Nissan has said the zero-emission car will carry a suggested retail price of $32,780, but that a federal tax credit of $7,500 will bring the subcompact's costs down to the mid-$20,000 range.
The state said the Leaf's economics are attractive since a driver in a traditional car getting 25 miles per gallon and paying $3.50 a gallon has a cost of 14 cents per mile.
The Leaf, when charged at current O'ahu residential electric rates of 23 cents per kilowatt-hour, has a cost of 5 cents per mile.
"In Hawai'i, there's a very interested consumer base," said Nissan's Zachary.
That includes Sabrina Sirt, a Maui resident who registered online last week to buy a Leaf.
Sirt said she was very excited about the Leaf. She also is vice president of Makawao-based HIEV, a company that's the exclusive distributor of Coulomb Technologies charge stations in the state.
So far three of the stations have been installed — one on O'ahu and two on Maui. Sirt said Nissan wants to incorporate home recharging for the Leaf, but that its charge stations will be equipped with a universal connector that will work with the car.
She said Hawai'i is an attractive place to own the vehicles because of its high gasoline prices. She said she already owns an electric car made by Current that has a range of up to 40 miles and her company is looking at bringing Chinese-made electric vehicles here.
"Definitely it's a great place to start," Sirt said.