Tag Archives: electric cars

Electric Car Stupidity in Hawaii

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will not be surprised to learn that Electric Car stupidity is alive and well in Honolulu.

The Hawaii State Energy Office discusses its Electric Vehicle policies on its website.  The subject is introduced as follows:

To reduce Hawaii’s consumption of petroleum within the transportation sector, the State Energy Office is looking at plug-in electric vehicles (EV) as well as other alternative transportation solutions to address the challenges of modernizing our energy system and building a clean transportation future. Hawaii’s leaders and stakeholders view the adoption and widespread deployment of EVs as a key approach towards the reduction of our fossil fuel dependency

Hawaii’s government officials have put on their rose colored green energy glasses.   The rosy view sees a warm sunny climate that has excellent solar properties, and short driving distances.  Hawaii has been anointed by local government officials as a paradise perfectly set up for Electric Vehicles.

Hawaii has an elaborate subsidy system to encourage energy conservation and to encourage renewable energy.  Very nearly all green energy in Hawaii is solar based, either in the form of solar water heaters or solar electric panels on the roofs of houses.  There is a bit of wind and lots of other things are being tried, but most electricity in Hawaii is produced by burning oil based fuels.

Remove the rosy hue and reality must one day set in.

Absent a dramatic change in battery technology, all intermittent green energy options will continue to be of limited use.  A better battery is an absolute necessity. Today’s crop of batteries are not up to the task.  Hawaii’s politicians appear to be wishing for a world that does not yet exist.  And wishing it were so is usually bad public policy.

Hawaii is executing policy based upon a technology that doesn’t yet exist.   The current crop of batteries are both expensive to manufacture and pollute the world when spent.  Solar panels only work for about 5 hours per day and wind averages about 8 hours a day.  Both are predictably unreliable.  That unpredictable nature will persist until battery technology improves.

Electric vehicles (EV) are exempt from parking fees.  Generous tax credits provide purchase assistance and businesses are given subsidies to compensate for mandatory installation of electric fuel fuel stations at parking facilities where 100 or more vehicles are parked.  Hawaiian Electric offers discounted electric rates for EV.  And Taxi’s have been given generous incentives too.

Solar power does reduce the need for oil power when it is sunny.  People install more solar than they need.  The excess is dumped onto the power grid.  Hawaiian Electric is forced to take it. The excess power is then retrieved from the grid during the evening peak.  This activity destabilizes the grid, making the entire system less reliable and it also shifts costs from those that have solar to those that don’t as everybody else has to pay more for peak energy.

A well healed homeowner can install solar power panels and buy an electric car.  Hawaii pays him to install the solar, then pays him again to buy the car and allows a discount on the electrical power used while allowing free parking where ever he goes.  What a deal….if you own a home and can afford a new car.

Most car charging is done at home at night.  The Hawaiian Electric power grid peaks shortly after sunset.   Both wind and solar are most effective during the day.  Hawaiian Electric is required to provide power 24/7.  Very nearly all power generation after sunset in Hawaii is done via oil fired power plants.  EV’s in Hawaii use one form of oil (electricity) instead of another form of oil (gasoline).

Oil is a very dirty and very expensive way to produce power.  Hawaii is the only state in the USA to use oil widely in power generation.    Modern gasoline cars pollute less than not so modern oil fired power plants.  EV’s in Hawaii produce twice the air pollution and twice the carbon dioxide as an equivalent gasoline vehicle, particularly newer gasoline vehicles that get significantly better gas mileage.

Hawaii’s government has provided  subsidies for all sort of non oil based products.  Biodiesel and ethanol are being encouraged with generous subsidies.  Hawaii’s ability to produce either is extremely limited.

Both ethanol and biodiesel require large tracts of agricultural land.  Land is something in short supply in Hawaii.  Hawaii has to import most food items because they don’t have enough farm land.  Sugar cane, a primary ethanol feedstock, is going away as houses fill up available land.   When I was a small boy, sugarcane was everywhere in rural Oahu.  Not anymore.

Hawaii’s approach is to try a bit of everything and hope that something will work.  The result is lots of subsidies to encourage less electrical usage.  People get government assistance to put LED lighting in their homes, to use more efficient appliances, to install solar water heaters,  and tax credits for solar powered electricity.   And one subsidy that encourages more electrical use…Electric Vehicle tax credits and deals.

And who pays for it, everybody that doesn’t drive an EV and have solar electric panels on their house.   Hawaiian Electric customers pay three times the national average for their electricity, which makes conservation an obvious choice.  It also makes Electric Vehicles more expensive to drive.

Hawaii’s air is dirtier and its electricity costs more because of a misplaced love affair with Electric Vehicles.  If and when a better battery becomes available, the state can force solar power generators to store their own power and use it during the evening peak.  If battery technology improves and if the State adopts reasonable solar panel policies many of my objections will disappear….but until then….




Free Electricity in Hawaii

I’ve spent the last few blogs trashing electric vehicles in Hawaii.   I’ve been too harsh.  I now think I’d consider an electric vehicle if I lived in Honolulu.

What prompted this change of heart?  A trip to Panda Express in Kapolei.  Yep, Panda Express.  There it was, mounted on the sidewalk, near the front door,  where the handicap parking usually resides,  my mind changer…..a  free electric car charging station.

Call me stupid…. it hadn’t occurred to me when I was doing the math on electric car costs that the state would give electricity away.  They are here, there, everywhere.  Free electricity dispensers.  Hawaii is giving away energy ….and who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Yes, you heard right, the state with the highest electric rates in the country is giving the stuff away as a way to encourage electric car use.  Both the feds and Hawaii pay you to buy an electric car, and Hawaii pays your fuel costs too.   Wow.

I could park my car there at Panda express on my way home from work, wander around the area getting exercise, maybe pick up some grinds….and eventually go home after scoring a few dollars worth of free fuel.  Suppose I worked at Schwab (or somewhere else that provides free energy) in downtown Honolulu, I could score free energy all day while I was at work.  If I played it just right I’d never pay for fuel again.

Yeah, I know it’s stupid to give away energy especially in a state that uses oil to make electricity….but Governments do stupid things all the time, so I might as well cash in.

Suppose, just suppose, I’d combined my electric car with a huge solar project at my home (last year before the 35% solar credit ran out).   People who can afford the first costs (it’s still expensive with a $10,000 subsidy) did just that.  The installation makes much more electricity than the house can use….and the excess is sent onto the electric grid.   The Solar customer then uses utility power in the evening and gets credit for the surplus provided earlier in the day.

The Utility is on the hook.  Hawaiian Electric gets power when it doesn’t need it and gets to give it back when it’s difficult for the utility to provide the power.  Who pays for the excess deliver-ability….everybody else.  And if this electric car thing takes off, peaking load will get worse as people plug their cars in when they get home from work, during the evening peak.

Hawaii politics in action…and the Electric Utility is right in there promoting the projects.   All the while the peak gets harder to meet and there are no new peaking plants being constructed, on a island….can you say blackout.

Hawaiian Electric Car Fuel Numbers Are Awful

Hawaii is one of my favorite places.   I love the local customs, the racially diverse society, the local food, and the weather is the best in the world.  Sometimes, though, the local politics drives me a bit crazy.

Hawaii is gaga over electric vehicles.  They have something called The Honolulu Clean Cities Coalition (HCC),  a non profit organization dedicated to reducing petroleum use in the transportation sector in Hawaii by advocating electric cars.  Oh, yes….it’s funded by the feds.

Here’s the problem.  Electric cars in Hawaii run on oil.  This makes them both expensive to purchase and expensive to operate.  And they have those nasty difficult to dispose of batteries.  Hawaii gets most of its electricity by burning oil.  Electric cars are only clean and environmentally friendly if their electrical source is clean and environmentally preferred.  The state is spending millions in federal, state and local subsidies to burn oil to make electricity to put into an auto…when they could skip the middle man and simply buy a gasoline vehicle.

There are federal and local subsidies here, there, and everywhere.  Without the subsidies, Hawaii would not have the program they have….and the citizens of the state would be better off.  They would have lower taxes and a cleaner environment.

Most electricity in Honolulu is produced by either oil or coal.  Even the natural gas used in the state is a manufactured process that starts out as oil.  There is a small amount of wind, a still under construction bio-fuels plant, and a rapidly growing Solar power generation program complete with Federal and State subsidies.

2012 was a banner year for Solar power in Honolulu.  The state subsidy (35%) went away on December 31, 2012 and people rushed to cash in.   The state revenue commissioner is not pleased.  He’s having trouble finding funds to offset the loss in tax revenue that Hawaii’s 35% credit caused.

Hawaiian Electric has special rates for electric vehicles.   If you pay $1.50 a month, you can get a sophisticated meter that allows you to pay rates based upon time of day.  The rates  encourage people to charge their cars at night which causes more oil to be burned because the main green alternative, Solar, is not available.

Honolulu’s typical rate is right around $.40 cents per kilowatt hour.   You could be paying as little as $.34 or as much as $.45.  The National average is a bit less than $.12.  The rate applies to all electricity used in the house, so it is really important not to use much juice in the evening.  The rate is a few cents higher on the other islands.

Let’s start by being optimistic…we’ll use 35 cents per kilowatt hour as a base price.  Next we add 20% or 7 cents per kilowatt hour to cover the losses in the charging and battery system.   In my last post I calculated a cost of 7.2 cents for the 220 V charging system, but I think I was a bit high, so we’ll just add 5 cents here.  That makes the cost of electricity in the vehicle 47 cents per kilowatt hour.

Now we must make an assumption on the cost of gasoline.   Yesterday I bought gasoline at a Costco in Honolulu for $3.999 per gallon.  If we pay 47 cents per kilowatt hour, how many miles would we have to go to spend $4.00 on fuel?

The EPA says the Leaf will go 2.94 miles per kilowatt.  At 47 cents per kilowatt that equals 47/2.94 or  15.99 cents per mile or 4.0/.1599 or 25 miles per gallon equivalent.

If I happen to fill up at a peak time I use 45*1.2+5 or 59 cents per kilowatt hour.   That math looks like this  59/2.94 or 20.06 cents per mile or 4/.201 or 19.9 miles per gallon equivalent.  Most economy cars on the road in Hawaii do better than that.  The Nissan Altima I am driving is averaging a about 2o.5 miles per gallon.

When an electric car uses oil based electricity it pollutes more than a modern efficient gasoline vehicle.  Hawaii would be better off dumping the entire Electric car program.  Gasoline cars are cheaper, cleaner burning and they don’t have those nasty Lithium Ion Battery packs.

The EPA and Hawaiian Electric try to make Electric cars sound like a good deal…and the locals here have installed over 200 electric charging stations…buying into the program.  The EPA could be right in a place with very low electricity prices, but there’s no way this statement by Hawaiian Electric is true

Switching to electric vehicles will use substantially less oil at lower cost to reach the same level of mobility, even if oil is used in the production of electricity.

Come on guys, tell the truth…we can take it.

More Hawaii Electric Car Silliness

In my last post I opined that Hawaii is a particularly bad place to use electric cars.   Yesterday I got yet another reminder that politics does not require either a rational reality or economic justification, just Federal dollars.   I have yet to meet a politician who would not advocate silly things….in the pursuit of US Treasury funds.  Federal money is often looked upon as free money.

I visited the downtown Honolulu Schwab Office.   The adjacent parking lot (that charged $3.50 for a half hour) was fairly full so I had to drive around and look for a spot.   The first section of the lot had no available spaces….except for 2 spaces reserved for electric cars.   It was an electric car charging station.

It turns out Hawaii requires electric charging stations in large parking garages as a part of their goal to become less reliant on oil.  A place that creates electricity using oil is in the forefront of the electric car business….and the Federal Government is paying for it.  GO FIGURE.   This downtown office building could not have possibly used Solar or Wind power generation so anyone that used the charging station was using oil to create electricity to be used in an auto instead of using oil directly as gasoline.  Guess what, your tax dollars have funded much of the program.

Hawaii politicians are so proud of this program, they have created a dandy booklet that explains it all called  Hawaii EV Ready.  And the Feds paid for the booklet too.

Zero Emission Electric Vehicles in Hawaii

Every January I abandon Alaska for Hawaii.  My first day in Hawaii and what do I see….a Nissan Leaf all electric car.  I’d never seen one on a road before.  Alaska vehicles are more about ground clearance and all wheel drive; Hawaii has many small vehicles that are easy to park and frugal to operate.   Hawaii also has lots of luxury vehicles that are all about status.  Lexus SUVs, and Jaguars are popular here.

Ah well…back to the Leaf.   Nissan has placed the big lie of Electric vehicles in clear view on the tailgate….a sign saying Zero Emission.   I’m sorry, there is no such thing.   Any electric appliance has air emissions and pollution associated with it….the emissions and pollution produced at the power plant.

There is always some carbon emissions and air pollution at the power plant.  Even wind and solar installations have emissions associated with manufacture, transportation, installation, maintenance and retirement.   Oahu produces most of its power in OIL fired generators at big power plants.   Oahu does have some solar and wind, but the wind is a very small component and the solar is almost entirely residential. Virtually all power used when the sun is not shining is oil based.

Normally I would be OK with an electric auto, but not in Hawaii.  In most parts of the USA, power is generated using natural gas or coal or hydro or nuclear and all are domestic sources of energy.  In those cases electric cars aid our drive for energy independence.  When the source of electricity is coal or oil, an electric car actually pollutes more than a modern gasoline vehicle.

In Hawaii a person driving an electric vehicle is simply changing the location of the oil consumption.  Throw in the considerable disposal problems presented by the Leaf’s batteries and you have an expensive car with lousy range that  effectively burns oil and pollutes the environment.

And Hawaii has a subsidy to provide electric fueling stations…go figure.