Sunday, May 10, 2009

Better Place applauds Hawaii's electric car legislation

Hawai'i will require large parking lots to reserve spaces for electric cars and to provide recharging capacity if a bill passed by the state's Legislature is signed into law.

The measure would take Hawai'i one step closer to developing a viable electric-vehicle market, supporters say.

"We think it's a great step forward for Hawai'i," said Pete Cooper, spokesman for Better Place Hawaii, which is seeking to create a $1 billion statewide charging network for such cars.

The Legislature gave Better Place's initiative a boost this week when it approved a bill authorizing the issuance of up to $45 million in special-purpose revenue bonds for the company's planned network.

Better Place signed an agreement with Hawaiian Electric Co. in December 2008 to make such service possible as early as 2011, and the initiative has the backing of Gov. Linda Lingle. Better Place told legislators it wants to develop a system to support more than 10,000 electric vehicles in Hawai'i by 2014, according to a report in the Honolulu Advertiser.

Better Place has raised more than $300 million and is partnering with utilities and governments to install its electric vehicle infrastructure in Israel, Denmark, Australia, Portugal, Ontario, Hawaii, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, Better Place's primary R&D center is in Israel. Shai Agassi, Better Place's Founder and CEO, was named to the Time 100 in April 2009.

The electric-vehicle bill was among a handful of adopted measures that environmentalists applauded yesterday as the Legislature wrapped up its session.

One bill would increase the tax on a barrel of oil by $1 to help the state explore alternative energy and protect local agriculture. Another bill would require public utilities to produce 25 percent of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020 and 40 percent by 2040.

The electric-vehicle bill would require that any parking lot with at least 100 public stalls be required to set aside 1 percent of the total spaces for electric cars by Dec. 31, 2011. The requirement would increase to 2 percent when at least 5,000 electric vehicles are registered in the state.

The bill also mandates that at least one recharging mechanism be made available in the parking lot.

The bills now go to Gov. Lingle for her review.

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