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Electric Cars Put Hawaii on The Road to Independence

by Chris Ayres

LOS ANGELES - Hawaii is to become the first US state to create a transport infrastructure that will allow cars to run almost entirely on electricity.

Better Place’s newest EV, the Rogue. Hawaii is to become the first US state to create a transport infrastructure that will allow cars to run almost entirely on electricity. (Image: Better Place) The plan involves building up to 100,000 charging stations in car parks and streets by 2012 and importing electric vehicles manufactured by a joint venture between Nissan and Renault.

Motorists who buy the cars will be able to purchase mileage plans - including recharging services and battery swaps - or use the charging stations on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Linda Lingle, the Governor of Hawaii, said that the programme would help the six large islands in the state to meet the goal of reducing the use of fossil fuels by 70 per cent within the next 30 years.

About 1.3 million people live in Hawaii, most of them in Honolulu. The islands import 90 per cent of their oil from countries such as Saudi Arabia, an arrangement that costs an estimated $7 billion (£4.7 billion) a year.

"Today is a part of the execution of our energy independence [strategy], and our getting off the addiction to oil," Ms Lingle said.

Most of the infrastructure will be provided and funded by Better Place, a Silicon Valley company - although the $75 million-$100 million cost of the project has yet to be raised. It will build the charging stations and provide charged batteries.

The electricity is expected to come from renewable sources, such as wind power. All of this will require a significant investment, however, because Hawaii has limited wind power and there are no transmission lines to carry electricity between the islands.

Shai Agassi, the founder and chief executive of Better Place, said electric cars would cost the same as petrol vehicles but that over time they would become cheaper because they used half as many parts as cars with internal combustion engines.

He added that Hawaii was an ideal place to show off the technology because the state hosts more than five million tourists every year. "If we can get them into electric cars when they rent we do two great things," he said. "One, we avoid emissions, and two, we use the opportunity to educate them, to teach them in Hawaii how it needs to be done in the rest of the world."

Other parts of the US, including the San Francisco bay area, and Israel, Denmark and Australia, plan to host Better Place recharging stations.

Island energy

- Hawaii had 1.28 million people and 1.13 million registered motor vehicles last year

- Imported petroleum is used for 90 per cent of its primary energy

- About 80,000 Hawaiian homes are fitted with solar water heaters

- Wind power provides 1 per cent of Hawaii's energy

Sources: State of Hawaii; www.betterplace.com; www.youralohaconnection.com

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