MAUI, HAWAII — Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian islands, with a population of about 145,000, mostly concentrated in bustling little towns. Get away from the sterile resort areas and you’re in farming country, with chickens running around and cows grazing. It looks a bit like the American Southwest, but with expensive food and $4 a gallon gasoline.
I’m in Maui on vacation, but I don’t turn off my critical faculties. This is a very windy island, and I can see 30 megawatts of wind turbines on the hillside, the start of what could be a great alternative to expensive imported oil. I also note the presence on Maui of an outfit converting VW Beetles to run on biodiesel.
But only David Noon of Maui EVs is converting vehicles to the electric cars that make a whole lot of sense for the Hawaiian islands. Noon, a relatively recent transplant from Alaska and also the owner of Maui's only broadcast TV operation (complementing his online radio station), is just getting started on electric vehicles. “But my aim is for this to be my primary business,” Noon said. He envisions shipping cars throughout the islands, since inter-island shipment is only $300 and nobody else is building EVs.
Here's a video I took of Noon giving me a tour of his place:
In his suburban driveway, Noon has a Ford Ranger XLT extended-range pickup with newly welded-in battery boxes. When this is done for a customer who’s paying $17,000, it will have 23 Optima marine batteries and be capable of 100 mph, with a 120-mile range.
Another customer is waiting for a second Ranger, and a truly remarkable range of other cars is also awaiting electrical transformation, from a Mini to a 1950s Studebaker and a Hummer H2. Out back, Noon has a Porsche Boxster festooned with advertising for his TV and radio show. That one, too, is soon to become an electric vehicle, as is a second Boxster. (Porsche is experimenting with electric Boxsters, too, so this conversion makes eminent sense.)
Noon’s first EV conversions on Maui were two Isuzus, a big Trooper and a smaller Amiga. Both received Advanced DC motors and Curtis controllers, plus those reliable Optima marine batteries. Those were followed by a three-wheeled motorcycle, capable of zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds, and that one was snapped up by a buyer before it was even done.
Noon took me for a ride in his Gem neighborhood electric vehicle, pointing out its shortcomings as we rode. The Gem is seriously battery-deficient, with just three miles of range. “A regular golf cart offers more range,” he said. There are some of those parked at his place, too, because he services them.
Maui is a fairly small place, and it’s eco-minded. I’m typing this in the shade of a whale-watching boat. And the islands are so windy, it could probably be self-sufficient in energy just from that source. But it’s really sunny, too, and Noon showed me a portable solar panel he made that can provide 750 watts for about five hours, using batteries to store electricity generated during the day.
The ancient Hawaiians got to the islands from Polynesia on wind power, so it seems appropriate to tap into that again. Thirty megawatts should become 300 megawatts. And if you plug Maui’s EVs into that wind power, why, that’s a totally clean energy loop. Mahalo!