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Electric Island Drive During 2017 National Drive Electric Week

National Drive Electric Week (NDEW) is an annual celebration and promotion of plug-in vehicles, both battery-only EVs and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) that can get energy from a gas pump as well as a wall plug. It has been organized nationally since 2013 by Plug In America, The Sierra Club, and The Electric Auto Association; in 2017 they reached all 50 states for the first time, and 5 other countries, with 276 local events. The gathering nearest to me was the Electric Island Drive in Honolulu on 17 September 2017, the last day of NDEW2017, organized by Blue Planet Foundation and the Sustainable Transport Coalition of Hawaii. Here, a few months late, are some photos and observations from the event.

Cars at one staging area

Over 90 EVs and PHEVs, including my family's 2017 Nissan LEAF, gathered at four staging points in downtown Honolulu, and then merged into a parade through the city, drawing lots of eyes and cameras from the visitors thronging Waikiki, and ending at Kapiʻolani Community College. Here is a view of maybe half of the vehicles at my staging point; you can see that the vast majority are either Nissan LEAFs (LEAVes?) or Tesla Model S sedans, though a (rare) Mitsubishi i-MiEV and (even rarer) Tesla Roadster are also present here. (The latter has Hawaii electric vehicle license plate #1, and belongs to Blue Planet Foundation founder Henk Rogers.)

Cars at KCC

Driving solo, I didn't take my hands off the wheel to shoot any photos (promise!) during the parade, so here we jump to the gathering at Kapiʻolani Community College. Nearly every vehicle you see here, except the two trucks at rear center, has a plug. Among the many LEAFs and Model Ss, you see in the foreground a Ford Focus EV, which from its license plate number is fairly new. (Since this event, Hawaii ran out of four-digit EV plate numbers and started a new pattern, like A001; however, I have been told by Blue Planet Foundation folks that there are gaps in the plate sequence because of the way numbers are allocated between the islands, so the actual number of EVs and PHEVs in Hawaii as November 2017 was about 6600 rather than over 10,000. That's still quite a few, actually; last year Hawaii was second only to California in plug-in vehicles per capita nationwide!)

I was surprised to see how few PHEVs there were among all the plug-only EVs; it has certainly looked like that to me in the casual survey I have been able to do while driving around, but if the vehicles at this event are at all representative of the distribution on Oahu, the ratio is something like ten to one or more! But then again, the value of a PHEV is that you can keep running on gasoline if you drive beyond the range available from the plug-in charge in your battery; and the island of Oahu is only fifty miles long between its farthest points, so it's pretty hard even to find roads to drive that far. Certainly that was the calculation we made in buying a plug-only EV, and it's been no problem at all in our first eight months.


I met Erik Söderholm (in the white hat), whose company is beginning to bring BYD electric vehicles like this E6 to Hawaii, at the Honolulu Auto Show earlier this year. There were several speakers from environmental organizations and state government, as well as entertainment, vendors, and food, under the tents visible in the second photo from the top, and one of the speakers said she'd like to issue a challenge to Tesla and others to bring vehicles intended for commercial use to market. After she spoke I went to intercept her so I could introduce her to Mr. Söderholm, since BYD vehicles include commercial vehicles like the E6 taxi in the photo and on up in size, but he was alert to the opportunity and was already waiting by the stage to brief her.

Dancing Model Xs

As I mentioned above, most of the vehicles present were Tesla Model Ss and Nissan LEAFs, in about equal numbers, but in third place by popularity was probably the Tesla Model X. Tesla vehicles, like many other Internet-connected, computerized devices, can have their firmware upgraded to add capabilities, and last Christmas a Holiday Show was added to the Model X programming as an "Easter Egg," a hidden surprise created by the programmers just for fun. The gull-wing doors and mirrors move, and the lights flash, in synchronization with music playing over the sound system, and for the first time I saw this demonstrated here. I was talking with some of the other Model X owners present, and I suggested that they park the vehicles in a "chorus line" and trigger the performance by each vehicle simultaneously; I should have shot video, but here's at least a still photo of this fun and festive show.

Mirai at Servco Mapunapuna

One vehicle that was not present was this Toyota Mirai fuel-cell vehicle (FCV); the organizers had been in contact with Servco Toyota to try to arrange their participation, but without success. There have been half a dozen or so Mirais on Oahu since early 2016, based at their Mapunapuna dealership (where I shot this photo) but refueling at a hydrogen station on a military base; in August 2017 they broke ground for the state's first publicly accessible hydrogen station on the grounds of the Mapunapuna location, but I wasn't able to talk my way into an invitation to the event. I'm hoping to have better success with the grand opening in 2018; I'll post a report here from that if I can. But as can be seen at events like National Drive Electric Week, or just by tracking the accelerating sales of EVs and PHEVs, vehicles with plugs are not waiting for any grand openings. There were a lot more EVs here than at the first EV road rally in which I participated; I just wish it hadn't taken twenty years to get to this point.

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new 31 December 2017