Hawaii has decided to partner with Better Place to bring car battery exchange stations for electric vehicles to the islands, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle announced Tuesday.
Better Place stations, similar in concept to gas stations, offer drivers with electric vehicles an automated system that swaps out exhausted lithium ion car batteries for fully-charged ones. The swapping system is intended to be convenient for both drivers and local electric companies, since Better Place can recharge the exhausted batteries with excess electricity generated from renewable sources during off-peak electricity hours.
Lingle said the project is an example of Hawaii's efforts to gain independence from foreign oil, and to stimulate its economy through investment in energy technology.
Not surprising due to its geography, Hawaii spends about $7 billion a year on oil imports with its drivers facing some of the toughest prices at the pump in the U.S. The plan to implement Better Place stations coincides with the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) intended to change that. Signed in January, it sets Hawaii's renewable energy bar at 70 percent clean energy by 2030, as well as encouraging programs that foster local economic growth.
Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place, was also on hand at the plan unveiling in Hawaii on December 2. According to Agassi, Hawaii is the second state in the U.S., and the fifth place in the world, to adopt the Better Place electric-car infrastructure. Better Place stations have already been implemented in Denmark and Israel, with Australia and California recently announcing intentions to add them.
"Hawaii, with its ready access to renewable energy resources like solar, wind, wave, and geothermal, is the ideal location to serve as a blueprint for the rest of the U.S. in terms of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, growing our renewable energy portfolio and creating an infrastructure that will stabilize our economy," Agassi said in a statement to the press.
Hawaii Electric is also onboard. The state's electric utility signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Better Place which plans to power its public charging and battery-swapping stations with renewable energy resources.
According to the plan, Better Place will pull permits for its stations in 2009, offer electric cars within 18 months, and make both available for the mass-market in Hawaii by 2012.
Better Place has said it's in talks with major automakers and would like to offer swappable batteries for any electric vehicle regardless of which company makes the car. But right now the company's stations only service two electric vehicles: the Renault Megane and the Better Place Rogue, an electric vehicle based on the Nissan Rogue crossover SUV.