Zero-emission vehicles, alternative fuels, independence from foreign oil supplies, and low carbon footprints are more than just pie-in-the-sky wishes--they can also be big business. Following in the steps of San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland, Better Place has just entered into an agreement with the state of Hawaii and the Hawaiian Electric Companies to implement a statewide electric-car charging network throughout Hawaii. "Attracting investments into the state is a major component of our Five-Point Action Plan to help stimulate the economy... Today's announcement is a significant move towards our state gaining independence from foreign oil. This public-private partnership is exactly the type of investment we have been working on as we continue to carry out our Hawai'i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), moving toward the goal of 70 percent clean energy for the State of Hawai‘i. It highlights the importance we place on finding innovative ways to attract investments in energy technology."
– Hawaiian Governor Linda Lingle
Hawaii's HCEI was signed this last January with a goal having at least 70 percent of the state's energy needs come from "clean energy
" by 2030. With the agreement with Better Place, Hawaii just got a strong push in the right direction. Over the next year, Better Place will begin installing public charging spots and creating "battery swapping stations
." The infrastructure for this network will be powered by Hawaiian Electric Companies, with much of the electricity coming from renewable energy sources, such as "solar, wind, wave and geothermal
." Better Places will also start introducing electric cars for sale in Hawaii, with the goal of having full mass-market availability by 2012.
The plan is that most electric cars will charge at home overnight, when electricity demand is typically lower. For cars that need to travel farther than a single charge will allow, roadside stations will provide fully-charged replacement batteries that can be quickly swapped out for the depleted or low batteries. The stations' supply of batteries are also charged during off-peak hours. This battery-swapping model won't necessarily work for all electric cars, but it should at least work with the electric vehicles that the Renault-Nissan Alliance is producing with Better Place. Better Place states: "Today, rechargeable lithium ion batteries can reliably deliver driving distances of over 100 miles on a single charge and replenish themselves at approximately one minute per minute of drive." Of course the means that electric cars that travel more than 100 miles and don't have replaceable batteries will have a longer stopover as they recharge their batteries. Perhaps eco-conscious drivers who will need to drive long distances in Hawaii might be best served by the Chevy Volt
Better Places claims that Hawaii has some of the highest gas prices in the U.S., and that automobile emissions make up roughly 20 percent of Hawaii's green-house-gas emissions. Better Places also claims that Hawaii spends as much as $7 billion per year on imported oil.