Edit ModuleShow Tags

Field Guide: Driving Electric

So you want an electric car? Here’s what to expect on Oahu.


photos: david croxford, thinkstock

2012 Nissan Leaf MSRP: $36,050 Highway fuel economy: 92 mpg

With electric-vehicle charging stations popping up in garages and shopping malls all over the Islands—more than 200 chargers at 80 locations statewide—Hawaii now leads the nation in EV plug-in sites per capita. So what’s it like to drive an electric car? Is it actually practical? We borrowed a Leaf from New City Nissan (Thanks, guys!) and put it to a weeklong road test to find out.

Driving the Leaf was a pleasure that required forethought, saved us money and introduced us to range anxiety. Our 72-mile daily commute from the North Shore to downtown and back pushed against the Leaf’s range limit, though we never—thankfully—ran out of battery. Once we made the round-trip drive on a single charge, but not without fretting about getting stuck somewhere between Wahiawa and Haleiwa, and having to wait for a tow while all the gasoline-powered cars zoomed by.




00MPH +The Leaf is no wimp. It holds its own in traffic, accelerating as smoothly as a jet gathering speed for takeoff. When in “eco mode,” used to extend battery life, the Leaf’s as zippy as a golf cart lugging plus-size golfers uphill.
FUEL +The growing network of 240-volt charging stations now includes 42 locations on Oahu, with more to come by the end of summer. There are lots of options. Some of these stations are in parking garages that cost $10 or more to get into.
SOCIAL +New friends. Everyone who saw us plugging in the Leaf, it seemed, had questions. Parking takes longer when it includes socializing.
ECONOMY +Driving past gas stations thinking, “Man, look how high gas prices are—ha, ha!” Range anxiety—the gnawing fear of running out of battery before getting back to a charger.

Most days we plugged in whenever we parked, which made parking an exercise in planning, and required some alterations to our daily schedule.

The Perks

+Use of HOV and zipper lanes.

+Free parking at state and municipal garages.

+Free parking in metered stalls.

+A $7,500 federal tax credit for purchasing a vehicle.

+A $4,500 state rebate for the vehicle and a $500 rebate for a home charging station.

+Free charges at all Better Place charging stations through 2012.

Typical EV car drivers install 240-volt charging stations at home. We used a trickle charger at home, which plugs the car into the same 120-volt wall outlet as a lamp or a laptop.  It took about 7.5 hours to top off a half-drained battery, adding about $4.48 to our electric bill and 40 miles to the car’s range. Traveling 40 miles in the gas-guzzler we usually drive would have cost nearly twice as much at the time (when regular was at $4.49 a gallon). In our case, at least in terms of fuel costs, Leaf clearly beat minivan.


Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Subscribe to Honolulu

Honolulu Magazine September 2018
Edit ModuleShow Tags



Remembering Anthony Bourdain, Who Helped Share the Stories of Hawai‘i

Anthony Bourdain

The chef, writer and TV host filmed episodes of "No Reservations" and "Parts Unknown" in the Islands.


7 Iconic Sugar Mill Smokestacks That Still Stand Tall in Hawai‘i

Smokestacks Sugar Mill Ladd

The landmark smokestacks serve as daily reminders of these communities’ rich plantation history.


Hawaiʻi Summer 2018 Bon Dance Schedule

Obon Festival Moiliili

Obon season is here, time to dance!


The Ultimate “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” Drinking Game

Jurassic World

The filmed-in-Hawai‘i sequel to 2015’s summer blockbuster premieres June 22.

Edit ModuleShow Tags