THE COOK ISLANDS Government has declared it aims to fully switch the country’s electricity generation from being fully dependent on fossil fuels to being fully run on renewable energy powered by solar energy, by 2020.
Te Ipukarea Society is proud to be able to “walk the talk”, or perhaps “drive the jive”, in supporting the Cook Islands’ renewable energy goals.
TIS started by installing solar panels at their previous office in Tupapa (where the National Environment Service is now located). Their next initiative was the purchase of a Mitsubishi MiEV electric mini-truck. This also happens to be the Society’s first-ever work vehicle, after 20 years of personnel using their private transport for environmental work.
Aside from Te Ipukarea Society, a number of local individuals have also chosen to support the country’s renewable energy goals and our environment, and achieve long term financial savings by purchasing electric vehicles (EVs).
Numbers have been steadily increasing on the island over the past 12 months, and we estimate there are at least 25 EVs on the island at present. Around half of these vehicles are Nissan Leafs. Of these, six are owned by Te Ipukarea Society members, something we are very proud of! There are also several hybrid vehicles that run on petrol and electricity.
Apart from these privately owned vehicles, the Rarotonga tour company, Tiki-e tours, has a fleet of six electric tuk-tuks. The government electricity provider, Te Aponga Uira, is also starting to amass a fleet of electric vehicles. Currently they own two mini-trucks and two mini-vans, manufactured in China.
So, with 25 EVs on island, and the number steadily increasing, it is clear the “renewable” movement is growing on Rarotonga. The EVs are not only good for the environment as they do not create greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change and global warming. They also are much cheaper to run. After some basic calculations the Society reckons the electric vehicles run at around 10c per kilometre – that’s about half the price it costs to run a fuel-efficient petrol-powered vehicle!
Of course if you have your own solar panels and are generating an excess of power, then the cost to keep your car running is the same as your greenhouse gas emissions - zero! The other cost saving comes with servicing. EVs never need an oil change or a fuel or air filter replacement. Yes, they will eventually need new batteries, but these costs are coming down quickly as battery technology improves.
So where do you charge your electric car? Most people install their own charger at home. It costs around $100 to install a 15amp wall socket. Te Ipukarea Society has installed an electric car charging outlet at their office. Te Aponga Uira has plans for a proposed electric car charging station, though they are still working out a few details, including how much they will need to charge, before this will be open to the public.
Charging times using these slow chargers are usually between three and four hours. Power use is around 10 units of electricity for a smaller Mitsubishi, and 16 units for a full charge in a Nissan Leaf. Maybe one day we will have the fast chargers here, which only take 20 minutes.
Many of these private owners shipped their electric vehicles to the island from overseas. However, if you want to buy your own electric vehicle the society understands there is still one Nissan Leaf left at Raro Cars and one Mitsubishi electric van at OTC. Both companies say they will import more EVs provided there is sufficient demand. Raro Cars’ mechanics have also received training in maintaining Nissan Leafs.