Correction: An earlier version of this story included an erroneous number mistakenly attributed to the Honolulu Advertiser.
Better Place, a company building a network of electric car battery-replacement and recharging stations, told Greentech Media on Monday that a Honolulu Advertiser article reporting the company plans to bring electric cars to Hawaii isn't accurate.
The newspaper reported that Palo Alto, Calif-based Better Place, which changed its name in July from Project Better Place, would bring electric cars to Aloha State showrooms starting in 2011. The company has teamed up with carmaker Renault-Nissan to bring electric cars into local markets around the world, while Better Place constructs and operates a network of electric charging stations.
But while Better Place has been in talks with Hawaii officials, no partnership has been formalized, company spokeswoman Julie Mullins said.
"It's still in early stages," she said. "As much as there's a great opportunity there ... it's too early for an announcement."
She emphasized that Better Place currently has no plan or timeline in place to bring electric cars to Hawaii. "It's up to the government to decide if they want to bring us in," Mullins said.
Lingle announced the state was in negotiations with the company in May, after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom also said he was in talks with the company (see Autoblog Green post). Better Place already is working on programs in Israel and Denmark, and Newsom said in July that he'd heard Hawaii might have climbed higher than San Francisco on Better Place's list.
In January, Better Place announced a partnership with Renault-Nissan to mass-produce electric cars and build Better Place network stations in Israel (see Bumpy Road Ahead for Project Better Place?).
In March, the Palo Alto-based company said it also was teaming up with Danish utility Dong Energy and Renault-Nissan to supply Denmark with a network of all-electric vehicles (see Sci-fi Inspired Vehicle to Hit California Roads).
Industry watchers are keeping a close eye on the startup, which is testing a unique approach to getting drivers in the seats of electric cars.
Fueled with $200 million in its first round of funding, Better Place said last year it would lease removable batteries for electric cars and build a network of battery-charging and replacement centers across the globe.
Better Place's ambitious have given rise to some industry watchers' concerns (see Bumpy Road Ahead for Project Better Place? and Electric-Car Firms Push Alternative to Project Better Place's Idea). For example, the nationwide infrastructure needed for drivers to either pick up or charge a battery could be expensive, especially when there are very few electric vehicles on the road.
But small countries, or islands like Hawaii, where drivers often go less than 100 miles a day make could make the approach more feasible.
Lenny Klompus, a spokesman for Gov. Lingle, said electric vehicles would be a good fit for Hawaii. "We have been very progressive with what we are doing with renewable energy," according to Klompus.
In January, Hawaii said it was working the U.S. Department of Energy to fuel 70 percent of the state's energy needs with renewable resources by 2030.
In September, the state secured $1.7 million in grants for projects studying how Hawaii can modernize its electric grid.