Easing ‘Range Anxiety’ Key To Accelerating Electric Vehicle Adoption

This story appeared in Civil Beat on Thursday, September 13, 2018

As more Hawaii drivers go electric, charging infrastructure needs to keep up.

This week is National Drive Electric Week, and Hawaii hit a milestone for electric vehicles, with the total count at 7,650 registered EVs in the state, as of August 2018. This is an increase of 1,434 EVs (or 23.1 percent) from last year, while overall vehicle growth was relatively flat.

Back in June, I vouched for the many positive benefits of driving EVs – primarily, no emissions, alignment with the Paris Accords, supporting 100 percent renewable energy, and saving drivers money.

Despite the positive benefits and high appeal of EVs, many drivers still have concerns about how and where to charge their vehicles. Justified or not, these concerns actually slow down EV adoption.

The apprehensions were also captured in a series of surveys Ulupono Initiative commissioned between 2016 and 2018 to gauge local EV drivers’ charging habits, the status of the state’s public charging network, and the appeal of EV rentals among Hawaii visitors.

In an initial survey of Hawaii EV drivers’ charging habits conducted between September and November 2016, 71 percent of drivers said they chose specific parking locations because of charging stations. Additionally, 73 percent said they make a concerted effort to frequent establishments with charging stations (proprietors take note!).

However, the same drivers also shared their frustrations — namely a lack of sufficient charging stations overall and specifically at the workplace. Fifty-five percent of drivers said they avoid driving long distances out of fear that they won’t be able to charge when needed.

Even as newer vehicle models are released with better battery range, current and potential EV drivers still worry about accessing charging stations. This angst remains a major barrier to EV adoption and to reaching the state’s clean transportation goals.

A subsequent evaluation of the EV public infrastructure in October showed that, while Hawaii is considered a leader in the nation, demand by EV drivers is simply outpacing the supply of EV chargers. The current law that requires at least one EV charger at public lots with 100 or more parking stalls has helped with a number of locations taking the lead and installing EV charging (thank you!).

Yet, the law lacks enforcement, and installing chargers can be a lower priority for some and understandably tough to justify the costs.

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