Thursday, March 17, 2011

Higher Gas Prices. Go for Trains and Electric Cars?

Fuel prices are trending upward in a hurry due to world events.

Local governments, including Honolulu's also are increasing fuel taxes.

The damage to people's wallets and family budgets will worsen.

So is it more economical to switch to a train or an electric car? This is definitely not a good choice in Honolulu.

Hawaii has by far the highest price per kilowatt-hour of electric power in the nation. The current price on Oahu is about 28 cents per KWh or 230% higher than the U.S. national average. AAA reports today's regular gas price in Honolulu at $4.084 per gallon or 15% higher than the U.S. national average.

Over 75% of the electric power on Oahu is produced by oil.

So it is pain at the pump and pain at the plug. But in relative terms, gasoline is a bargain. Honolulu pays a 15% premium on gas and a 230% premium on electricity.

This has two important implications for transportation in Hawaii:
  1. The 100% electric car Nissan Leaf is rated by EPA at 99 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) assuming the average price of 11 cents per KWh in the US. This reduces to about 40 mpg in Hawaii because power is 230% more dear. As a result, the Nissan competes with similarly fuel efficient Ford, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota hybrids which cost less and have a range of 400 miles instead of 100 miles.
  2. The operating cost and pollution impact of the proposed rail will be staggering because it draws several megawatts of electricity, runs almost empty for 16 out of 20 hours of its daily operation, and has a minimal benefit on traffic congestion.
(Of course by now it is clear that rail is the way for billions of taxes to be reallocated to special groups and politicians -- both of them pushing it madly.)