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Update to Electric Cars on Maui

May 11, 2014 - Ray Tsuchiyama

See: Maui News “Turning Over A New Leaf” November 2011

Note 1: The largest consumer of gasoline in the world is the United States (population: 318 milion), which used an average of 368 million U.S. gallons (1.46 gigalitres) each day in 2011. Do we have the right to do this, forever and ever?

Note 2: China and India have populations of 1.3 and 1.2 billion people, respectively. If a family in New Delhi or Beijing have the money to buy a car, who is to stop them from buying gasoline and driving 1 mile to buy a pizza and toilet paper, like we do, going to Long’s on Sunday for a $3 purchase?

Spring 2014. About two-plus years ago I wrote about my experience driving a Nissan Leaf in Honolulu. There were approximately 150 Electric Cars on Maui back then, and now, with the Chevy Volts, Nissan Leafs, Tesla sports cars (any car with an electric plug-in qualifies, even with a small gasoline engine) there are more than 450 EV’s roaming Maui, so a remarkable EV population doubling in two-plus years.

This spring gasoline costs have not doubled to $7 – 8 per gallon (as the “norm” in many European countries and Japan), and before the big American summer “driving” season, it’s about $4.35 - $4.40 per gallon* on Maui, about 15 – 20 cents lower in Honolulu. I bought gasoline for $7 a gallon in Tokyo. Many countries subsidize gasoline and others “tax” gasoline – India is at nearly $5 a gallon and China at slightly over $4.00. The European Union “average” price per gallon is $7.80.

And we see many more EV chargers, from Kihei Foodland to the Maui County Wailuku Fast Charger to other sites.

People are interested in EVs more, less anxious about “range anxiety”.

Yet, Maui has 110 – 120,000 gasoline-powered cars (included are 3+ cars many families own, plus the various car rental firms and State/County government cars, and throw in trucks and specialized huge vehicles for agriculture). Percentage-wise, for EV’s running around Maui, that’s a lot less than 1 per cent.

In December 2013 there were about 400,000 plug-in EV vehicles world-wide, so that’s only four Maui car populations. That figure was up from 180,000 vehicles in 2012, so the world market penetration doubled, like Maui.

As of April 2014, the United States has the largest number of plug-in EV's in the world, with over 203,000 EVs sold since 2008.

Ranking second is Japan, with over 74,000 EV's sold between July 2009 and December 2013. (Japan has no oil, and like a bigger island compared to Maui, has to import all gasoline, all food, all iron ore.)

In March 2014 Norway made news by becoming the first country in the world where over one in every 100 registered passenger cars is a plug-in EV. BTW, the Norway gas price is at $9.90 a gallon – even with Norwegian oil sales. Norway saw the “end of oil” from its own national reserves and banked $860 billion in cash, or $170,000 per Norwegian man, woman and child. But, Norway has few other industries/business than oil, and Norwegians are being prepared for challenging economic times – hence, the push for EVs and using less gasoline.

In short, Norway (with 5.1 million population or five Hawai'i’s) is frantically enforcing an EV future, so when gasoline is even at $15 a gallon, EVs will be the majority of family cars in the country.

Norway is now the country with the highest market penetration per capita in the world, four EV's per 1,000 people in 2013, and also the country with the largest plug-in EV market share of new car sales, 5.6% of new car sales in 2013.

During the first quarter of 2014 Norwegian EV car sales reached a record 14.5% market share of new car sales – this is unbelievable, as if on Maui nearly 15 cars out of every 100 new cars sold would be an EV.

Ranking second is the Netherlands, with a market share of 5.34% in 2013.

Estonia, which has the second largest EV market penetration per capita after Norway, is the first country that completed the deployment of an EV charging network with nationwide coverage, with fast chargers available along highways at a minimum distance of between 25 to 37 miles (25 miles is half the distance between Kahului Airport and Hana). Estonia’s gas price is slightly lower, at $6.80 per gallon.

Turkey is at more than $10 a gallon, and it must be a pain to drive a car.

Vietnam is another country where there is no subsidy, even when Vietnamese citizens annual income was $140 per person in 1992 – and in 2013, the figure is $1,960 – imagine if you owned a car and you had to pay $35 for a fill-up. So, it is no surprise Vietnam has far more motor scooters and motorcycles than cars in the streets. But, just like India and China, Vietnam’s economy will grow, and more cars will be racing up and down the highways.

India and China are great “wild cards”, since if affluence comes faster, families will buy cars and start going to malls to buy things, rather than the neighborhood store, like Maui.

But we can’t demand India or China to not buy cars when we merrily use 368 million gallons of gasoline a day in the U.S. Everybody in the developing world say “we want the same as you”, and “don’t be hypocritical about our aspirations”.

On the other hand, Maui could “see” the future and become like Norway, a fast-growing global EV center, and not suddenly be surprised by $15 a gallon gasoline.

*All “gallons” in this blog post are U.S. gallons, different from Imperial gallons, which are larger in liquid volume. Most countries price gasoline at the gas station pump by the Liter (about 3.75 Liters in a Gallon). The Venezuelan government distributes gasoline to gas stations for free. Venezuela has a government subsidy and citizens buy gas at SIX cents a gallon. A Ford F-150 XLT V-8 SUV with 36 gallon tank fill-up will cost Two Dollars and Sixteen Cents. In Nigeria, the government raised gas prices from $1.70 per gallon to $3.50 and many factions in Nigeria united to lobby against the price rise, and the President gave in, dropping the price to $2.27 a gallon to end a general strike. The price still is heavily subsidized.


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