The U.S. Department of Energy says electric vehicles in Hawaii are primarily being powered by oil and coal
Written by
Kevin Brown
A Tesla electric vehicle
Image By
Bill McElhaney

Although electric vehicles emit little to no tailpipe emissions on the roads, reports suggest they are only environmentally friendly if the sources of energy used to power them are clean.Currently, electric vehicles in Hawaii are drawing the majority of their power from fossil fuel energy sources, according to information from the U.S. Department of Energy. 

Kayson Conlin, a senior from Utah studying graphic design, said, “When considering which car is best for the environment, we shouldn’t be so quick to assume a car that doesn't use gas is better by default.

“The electricity that powers a Tesla has to come from somewhere, and in many instances, it comes from power plants that use fossil fuels.”  According to reports from the U.S. Department of Energy, that is the case for the majority of electricity produced in Hawaii. 

The report said the state average for the top three sources of electricity in Hawaii is 68 percent oil, 13.2 percent coal and 5.46 percent wind. 

The national averages for the top three electricity sources are 35.24 percent natural gas, 27.52 percent coal and 19.37 percent nuclear. 

In addition to using fossil fuels to power their batteries, there are also emissions arising from production of these vehicles and their parts. According to Forbes, countries being used to manufacture the batteries for some electric vehicle companies are reporting “a much higher level of impact on emissions. A comparative study between electric vehicles and internal combustion vehicles (ICVE) in China ... indicates that infrastructure and efficient manufacturing techniques are the keys to reducing emissions during production.

“Chinese electric vehicle battery manufacturers produce up to 60 percent more CO2 during fabrication than ICVE engine production, but could cut their emissions by up to 66 percent if they adopted American or European manufacturing techniques.”

Until cleaner manufacturing processes are developed all around the world, pollution generated during the production of electric vehicle batteries remains at par or slightly higher than the process used to manufacture petrol or diesel-based engines, according to Forbes. 

Conlin said, “Gas cars have gotten very efficient in recent years, and while they might not be the ‘green future’ everyone is raving about, they shouldn’t be overlooked as an option when buying a car.” He said car buyers should do their research and look at the overall picture when deciding between an electric vehicle or a gas-powered vehicle. 

A report from the Ricardo Consultancy found that “an average petrol car will involve emissions amounting to the equivalent of 5.6 tons of CO2, while for an average electric vehicle, the figure is 8.8 tons. Of that, nearly half is incurred in producing the battery,” according to The Guardian. 

Despite this information, the same report stated electric vehicle owners will still only use approximately 80 percent of the emissions of a gas-powered vehicle over the span of the car’s lifetime. 

An electric vehicle’s long-term efficiency, alternative to rising gas prices and green initiative have attracted car buyers in the Aloha State. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the state of Hawaii has the second-highest electric vehicle ownership per capita in the United States, with California taking the top spot. However, electric vehicles only account for less than 1 percent of all vehicles on Hawaii’s roads, according to Hawaii News Now. 

Of those vehicles, Teslas account for about 13 percent. Incentives, such as reduced registration fees, allowing electric vehicles to drive in HOV lanes and reserved parking spaces, have also contributed to the rising number of electric vehicles in Hawaii. 

In order to meet the increasing demand, Tesla has plans to extend its presence beyond its two existing locations at Ala Moana Center and the International Market Place. Montavio Avery, a sales associate at Ala Moana Center’s Tesla store, said, “We are in the planning stages of installing two supercharge stations on Oahu, one in Kailua and one in Honolulu.” Avery said Tesla is also building a supercharge station on Maui.  

“The Tesla car knows where the supercharging stations are based on your GPS location, as well as other Tesla stores. It will also show you where other charging stations are from other companies, so you will never be left without a place to charge your car,” he said. 

According to Tesla’s website, supercharge stations can charge your vehicle in less than an hour and users are charged per kilowatt-hour or per minute of charging, depending on the location of the station. 

Avery said, however, most people in Hawaii charge their vehicles at their homes since they aren’t driving long distances compared to electric vehicles on the mainland. 

Programs incentivizing the use of electric vehicles and clean energy are expected to continue as Hawaii is the only state in the nation to have set a goal of producing all of its renewable energy by 2045, according to KITV.

Date Published
September 26, 2019
Last Edited
September 26, 2019