Stakeholder Spotlight

Big Island Electric Vehicle Association

Big Island Electric Vehicle Association (BIEVA) is an all-volunteer organization, led by Noel Morin of Hilo, that actively works to increase awareness and adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) on Hawaii’s Big Island. The group’s mission:

To increase the adoption of sustainable transportation and reduce fossil energy dependence in Hawaii.”

The BIEVA was formed in 2011 by a few Big Island EV owners as a way to exchange experiences and ownership tips. It quickly transformed into a group dedicated to helping new and would-be EV owners with their questions and concerns, and raising public awareness of the benefits of electric cars. The organization has hosted annual National Drive Electric Week events since 2013. It also holds monthly meet-ups and brings EV s to local parades and auto shows. The events bring together EV owners, local EV dealers, and the general public. They help to raise the awareness of, and help dispel common misconceptions about electric vehicles. Importantly, these gatherings have helped many decide to transition to electric vehicles!

The group offers interested individuals with personalized support – it pairs up potential customers with the owners of EVs that they are interested in, allowing them to learn detailed information about their future EV. Its members have been generous with their time and EVs – they have even allowed potential customers to check out and drive EVs that are not available at local dealerships. (This is especially true for Tesla vehicles.)

The BIEVA also mobilizes around the expansion of the charging infrastructure on Hawaii Island. It has provided feedback and suggestions on the placements of the island’s DC fast chargers and encouraged local businesses to tend to inoperable charging stations. BIEVA volunteers make time to periodically check charging stations in their area and report failures to operators.

Recently, the BIEVA formed a Policy Committee to help influence legislation related to EV adoption, i.e., support for EV incentives and the development of an effective EV charging infrastructure. The Policy Committee seeks to raise political awareness of the importance of EVs in the state’s sustainability goals, and to increase support of EV-friendly legislation. The committee includes BIEVA members and the leader of the Tesla Hawaii Club. It has collaborated with leads from Blue Planet Foundation, Ulupono Initiative, and the Kauai EV Club during the recent legislative session. During the 2019 legislative session, the committee encouraged many of its members to provide testimony on relevant legislation. In the upcoming session, the BIEVA hopes to effect even more public and legislator awareness and support for bills that are EV-friendly.

The BIEVA has been the Hawaii chapter of the Electric Auto Association (EAA) for several years. The EAA is a national organization dedicated to increasing EV adoption across the nation. In an effort to engage and mobilize EV owners across the state, the BIEVA recently expanded the scope of the EAA Hawaii chapter - the chapter is now referred to as the Hawaii Electric Vehicle Association. The BIEVA has reached out to EV clubs across the state to invite their members to join this chapter of the EAA. This state-wide collaboration will allow the group to have a louder voice in its policy efforts, enable state-wide best practice and resource sharing, and increase its public education reach.

EV adoption in Hawaii is still fairly nascent. Less than 1% of Hawaii’s roughly 1 million passenger vehicles are EVs. However, with improving EV driving range and affordability, and increasing public awareness of the benefits of EVs, adoption is improving. There are over 9000 EVs in the state (over 500 on Hawaii Island). The growth rate of about 30% year over year is promising but more must be done if Hawaii is to meet its sustainability goals. Groups like the BIEVA are critical to ensuring that it does.

The BIEVA is possible through the tireless contributions of its leaders and members. It is largely self-funded and only began to accept donations in the past couple of years. The organization will continue to rely on the generosity of its volunteers and donors to sustain its mission and operations. Noel personally manages the BIEVA’s website, Facebook page, and newsletter, and also leads the activities of the BIEVA leadership team. These include membership management, event planning and execution, and collaboration with local non-profits (Blue Planet Foundation and Drive Electric Hawaii) and local businesses (Hawaii Electric Light and local EV dealers) on shared objectives.

Noel also volunteers for the Hawaii Red Cross (he is on the Board of Directors and chairs the East Hawaii Advisory Council) and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a non-partisan group dedicated to enabling support in Congress for a national solution for our climate crisis.

For more information on the BIEVA, visit www.bigislandev.org.