Big Island group wants more drivers to go electric


Ever wonder what life would be like if you never had to buy another gallon of gas?

Perhaps you’re fed up with the prices at the pump. Or you worry about the effect burning fossil fuels has on the environment. Maybe you don’t like the way your hands smell after fueling up.

Whatever your reason for dumping petroleum products, now may be the time to do it, according to members of the Big Island EV (Electric Vehicle) Association.

As the island’s early adopters, members of the association have already taken the plunge and now want to share their knowledge and experience with the public. Today, they will be at Hilo’s Home Depot between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to show off their rides, answer questions and promote what they consider to be the wave of the future. The event is part of National Plug In Day.

A companion event begins at 10 a.m. Sunday at Kona Commons, near Sports Authority.

“We have an incredible amount of experience (in the group),” said founder Doug Teeple. “We know how the cars work, we know where the charge stations are. … We want to share that information.”

Teeple, who programs computers for the Mauna Kea observatories, is no stranger to electric cars. In 2005, he gutted his beloved 1972 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia and turned it into a fully functioning electric vehicle. He’s also the proud owner of a Nissan Leaf and said he is looking forward to purchasing a Tesla Model S.

When he first began his love affair with electric cars, there was little information available and no infrastructure, such as charging stations, to speak of. But now that early adopters have helped iron out some of the details, electric cars are catching on. According to club members, there are now more than 100 fully electric cars on the island, and that number is growing rapidly.

“Back when I got my Leaf in 2011 and started the club, I never thought it would grow like this. It’s amazing to me now to see we’ve grown to 70 people,” Teeple said. “I think our dependence on foreign oil is a very dangerous thing. It’s costing us a lot of money, and it’s time to make a change.”

Home Depot, which is helping sponsor the event, currently offers two free electric charging stations to the public, and more are being added around the island.

EV Association members say their goal is to promote the technology and advocate for more infrastructure, in the hope that one day electric car drivers will be able to circumnavigate the island. The best way to do that, they say, is to add more people to their ranks.

“We want to heighten awareness,” added club member Noel Morin, who organized the Plug In Day for the Hilo side of the island. “We want to ensure the public is aware of the benefits of electric vehicles, as well as the availability.

For more information, visit pluginamerica.org, or evhawaii.org.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.