HONOLULU (KHON2) – Government officials begin driving more electric vehicles and a fleet of brand new Teslas is attracting attention.

History always has to be investigated.

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There are a lot more electric vehicles on Hawaii’s streets these days, including Teslas, but KHON2 gets a lot of questions, why so many Teslas for the State Department of Transportation (DOT)?

State cars and trucks usually look functional, are slightly worn around the edges, and are never mistaken for a luxury car.

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But when shiny new Teslas appeared by the dozen, viewers asked KHON2 to dig deeper. Always investigating, the man in charge asked Ed Sniffen, DOT deputy director of the Highways Division.

“I really appreciate the concern that you have to make sure we are taxable,” said Sniffen. “We’re not looking for luxury vehicles. We don’t try to spoil our employees. I would love if everyone understands that we are looking for the best deals for the state. We could have thought about looks and opted for the Chevy Bolt, but we could have got a less reliable vehicle at a higher price. “

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Sniffen said that’s because, taking telematics and charging points into account, the Teslas came in at $ 1.49 a mile, and the Nissan Leafs and Chevy Bolts came in at $ 1.60 to $ 1.70 a mile.

“When they tell you the cost per mile of a Tesla is lower than that of a Nissan Leaf, it’s really incalculable,” said Panos Prevedouros, transportation professor at UH Manoa Engineering School. “So there may be other fixed fees there that we don’t know about. Somebody makes good money with it between the contractor and Tesla and everyone. “

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A contractor, Sustainability Partners, takes care of the purchase of the Tesla cars and takes care of the charging station components. All of this is part of a new model for Hawaii government fleets called Mobility as a Service, where state and regional agencies can electrify their fleets for a fee per mile. It’s not the first foray into electric vehicles for the DOT, but it’s the first with a 10-year pay-as-you-go contract that the state and all counties can use.

“I think we got Chevy Bolts in 2019 that cost us about $ 50,000 for the vehicle,” recalled Sniffen. “The charging station cost us an additional $ 15,000-20,000 to install the infrastructure for the charging station, then install our racks, and so on. So all in all, about $ 70,000 when we finished. And the maintenance is still on us, the insurance is still on us. “

It would have cost $ 2 million with the latest fleet replacement, but the new approach: “My profit on 43 new vehicles is only about $ 170,000,” said Sniffen. “Because the Teslas were the best offer, we got 43 Teslas. But when you decide to make the next bulk purchase of vehicles, it is all available vehicles and technologies that give us the best deal. “

He says the DOT will also save fuel, make hundreds of dollars even after the cost of electricity, and be more environmentally friendly in the process – to the extent that Hawaii’s power grid contains some clean energy.

“We have some renewables, but they are less than 30 percent,” said Prevedouros. “In fact, it’s usually less than 20 percent. So 80 percent of our electricity is dirty. The argument that we are saving CO2 shouldn’t really be on the slide. It is too early to say that. “

The DOT says the Teslas are easier to track and verify when they are only used for work tasks, some employees are allowed to take them home but are not allowed to use them outside of work other than commuting. They are also more practical in size and put the Chevy Bolts side by side and in the cubic interior in the shade.

Skeptics say that whatever the case, agencies should keep an eye on the bookkeeping and look back soon to ensure that the expected savings are taking effect.

“Let’s find out the full cost and the contract and what we actually paid for these vehicles,” said Prevedouros, “and what could have been if it had been a cheaper gasoline vehicle or some other type of vehicle.”

Expect to see more electric vehicles hit the streets in the states and counties as Governor David Ige signed Law HB552 on Thursday June 24th to have a 100% zero emission light fleet by 2035.

The current DOT conversion has so far turned 43 Tesla into a fleet of 300 light commercial vehicles. Sniffen says they are keeping a close eye on the money and will likely reduce the overall fleet size in the end.

“We fund this over time to make sure we can afford it,” said Sniffen. “As we go through this, we will adjust the fleet to the right size. We will use telematics to give us this data, to give us a feel for what is necessary in the system, and we will get rid of those that are not needed. “