The University of Hawaiʻi Maui College is leading the charge in reducing Maui County’s dependence on oil by forming Maui EVA, the Maui Electric Vehicle Alliance, the only organized electric vehicle stakeholder group in the state of Hawaiʻi. The alliance was created after the college won a planning grant from the U. S. Department of Energy in October 2011.
“Basically, it is to look into what is required to get Maui on the way to adopting electric vehicles,” said Anne Ku, the director of the Maui EVA and lecturer at UH Maui College.
The alliance started with 14 partners but has since grown to more than 60, including the county government, Maui Electric Company, hotels, automobile dealerships and car rental companies.
“Our grid is going to get greener over time,” said Shaun Stenshol, president of Bio-Beetle ECO Rental Cars. “We are getting more wind farms, more solar energy so over time, the electric vehicle becomes greener and greener.”
A critical step was giving Maui residents the chance to look under the hood and get behind the wheel of an electric vehicle—a first for most.
“When we first started, I can count on one hand how many people have driven one,” said Ku. “And now I can say there are a lot more people. I think it is very important that you try driving and charging an electric vehicle and not just look at it.”
The travel industry’s participation is also key considering Maui averages more than two million tourists a year.
“They really need charging at hotels and a good public charging infrastructure, because they don’t know the geography, and this is what we are trying to offer,” said Ku.
Maui College is already preparing a workforce to fix and maintain electric vehicles by adding hybrid and electric vehicle care to its automotive technology curriculum.
“We’ve been training for the last four years on the hybrids and we are trying to tie with the EVA cars because the future is the electric car, “ said Thomas Hussey, department chair of the vocational and CT programs at UH Maui College.
Before Maui EVA was formed, there was one charging station on the Maui. Now there are more than 20. The push towards electric vehicles is helped by the fact that Maui consistently has some of the highest gas prices in the country.
“It is really sad to see that we have so much renewable energy but we are still 90 percent dependent on oil,” said Ku.
Maui EVA’s efforts are expanding and the alliance now supports electric vehicle initiatives on Molokaʻi, Kauaʻi and the Big Island. For more information, go to the Maui Electric Vehicle Alliance website.