Maui Business

AAA Hawai‘i Announces Growing Demand for Electric Vehicles

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A new AAA survey shows that 20% or 50 million Americans will likely go electric for their next vehicle purchase, up from 15% in 2017. With lower-than-average ownership costs, increased driving ranges and the latest advanced safety features, AAA sees a strong future for electric vehicles.

To help “green” car shoppers make an informed choice, AAA conducts independent, rigorous test-track evaluations of plug-in hybrids, hybrid and fuel-efficient, gas-powered vehicles.

“Today, electric vehicles have mainstream appeal,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering. “While concern for the environment is still a major motivator, AAA found U.S. drivers are also attracted to the lower long-term costs and advanced technology features that many of these vehicles offer.”

Hawai‘i is second in the nation, behind California, in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) registered in the state per thousand people, according to Hawai‘i Energy Facts & Figures, November 2017.  More than 5,000 EVs are operating in Hawai‘i and the state is proactively encouraging and working to expand the numbers.

AAA Hawai‘i’s General Manager Liane Sumida said, “The Aloha State is increasing electric vehicle adoption and educating consumers about electrification of charging infrastructure to lower costs and save drivers money. The AAA Electric Vehicle Consumer Survey, the AAA Top Green Vehicle awards and the AAA Green Car Guide align with education and the efforts to reach Hawaii’s 100% renewable energy goal.”

Range Anxiety Easing

Perhaps fueling American’s desire for electric vehicles, AAA’s survey found that “range anxiety” is beginning to ease. Among those unsure or unwilling to choose an electric vehicle for their next car, 63% (down 9% from 2017) cited not enough places to charge as a detractor while 58% (down 15% from 2017) expressed concern over running out of charge while driving. Not surprisingly, range anxiety is less of a concern for millennials (48%) than Generation X or Baby Boomers (64% and 66%, respectively).

While range is important to most (87%) electric and hybrid vehicle shoppers, it is not the only consideration. Reliability is king with nine-in-ten (92%) of those likely to by an electric or hybrid vehicle stating it is important when evaluating which car to buy. Electric and hybrid car shoppers are also prioritizing crash ratings (77%), cost (71%), acceleration and handling (69%) and advanced safety technology such as automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance (60%). Fewer drivers are concerned with style, color, or design of the vehicle (34%) or brand of the vehicle (33%). Full survey results are available here.

Extensive Testing of Vehicles

To help drivers looking to making the switch or find their next green vehicle, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, on behalf of AAA, conducts extensive and thorough testing of high fuel efficiency, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles each year, and assigns ratings based on criteria important to buyers such as ride quality, safety and performance.

“A first-time buyer may feel overwhelmed or confused by the differences between gas-powered, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric,” said Megan McKernan, manager of Automotive Research Center. “Our evaluations are designed to help drivers select a safe, comfortable and reliable vehicle – not just the most efficient one.”

In 2018, the following vehicles earned AAA’s Top Green Vehicle award:

Category Vehicle
Overall Tesla Model X 75D
Subcompact Car Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Compact Car Nissan Leaf SL
Midsize Car BMW 530e i-Performance
Large Car Tesla Model S 75
Pickup Ford F-150 4X4 XLT Sport
SUV/Minivan Tesla Model X 75D
Best Under $30K Kia Niro LX
Best $30K – $50K Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Best Over $50K Tesla Model X 75D

Winners, detailed evaluation criteria, vehicle reviews and an in-depth analysis of the green vehicle industry can be found at  AAA Hawai‘i’s Honolulu branch also has a limited number of print copies of the guide available.

Although Americans may be more eager to buy an electric vehicle, having the right infrastructure will be critical to its widespread adoption. In 2018, the availability of charging stations had grown to more than 16,000 in the United States and, although anxiety over range has reduced, AAA’s survey found consumer expectation for charging time while on the road may not align with reality. Seven-in-ten (68%) Americans feel that while out driving, a charging time of no more than 30 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to wait.

“Today’s drivers are accustomed to a quick fill up at the corner gas station, but electric vehicle charging can sometimes take several hours,” said Brannon. “With a little planning, electric vehicle owners can avoid a roadside inconvenience and, as technology improves, charging times will too.”

Drivers can access EV charging station locations through AAA’s Mobile app or TripTik Planner.

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