December 18th, 2018
Program part of a push to accelerate clean transportation transformation
Forty-one automobile sales associates in Hawaii are now certified Electric Vehicle (EV) Experts, thanks to the Electric Vehicle (EV) Expert Certification Program, an initiative of Blue Planet Foundation and the Sustainable Transportation Coalition of Hawai‘i (STCH). The program, supported by a grant from the Ulupono Donor-Advised Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation, has reached twelve automobile dealerships on three islands (Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island) since its launch in July this year, enhancing dealership sales staff’s knowledge of EV technologies, infrastructure, incentives, and benefits in Hawaii.
“The EV Expert Certification Program equips dealership sales associates with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in a rapidly evolving EV marketplace,” said Lauren Reichelt, Clean Transportation Lead at Blue Planet Foundation and STCH Coordinator. “Those interested in buying or leasing an electric vehicle can now access this growing network of EV Experts and be confident that they will have the best possible customer experience at the dealership.”
EVs are rapidly gaining in popularity in the state. According to the latest data from the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, monthly EV registrations jumped by 265 vehicles in November as compared to the previous month. This is the largest month over month growth ever in EV sales in Hawaii, taking the total number of passenger EVs in the state to 8,219. This total represents an increase of 24% in EV passenger registrations from the same month last year.
The increased adoption of EVs supports electric utilities and the state in reaching Hawaii’s renewable energy and clean transportation targets. Hawaii has a goal of achieving 100% clean energy in the electricity sector by 2045, and the four counties have committed to eliminating fossil fuels from ground transportation by the same year.
“With our limited roadways, expensive gas prices and high dependency on imported fossil fuels for ground transportation, it is ideal to own and drive an electric vehicle in the islands,” said Greg Gaug, Vice President of Investments for Ulupono Initiative, a Hawaii-focused firm that empowers organizations, like the Blue Planet Foundation, working to increase the state’s resiliency and self-sufficiency. “Not only do EVs avoid the use of gasoline, they generate less emissions, which is good news for the environment. Driving an EV can also save you money, lowering the high cost of living, and they’re fun to drive!”
Automakers globally are investing significant resources in EVs. However, research suggests that the customer experience for purchasing an EV is often poor, in part due to sales staff occasionally lacking knowledge about the new and emerging EV experience.
The EV Expert Certification Program aims to address this issue by partnering with local dealerships to create a cohort of automobile sales associates and dealership staff in Hawaii that is well-equipped to respond effectively to the growing interest in EVs. Participating sales associates study the program curriculum prior to attending their certification workshop. After a refresher course and mock sales practice, they are administered the official certification test.
“My favorite thing about the EV expert program is the sharing of information,” said Vincent Soberano, Sales Associate at Tony Nissan in Waipahu. “Being connected to other professionals in the industry during the vital shift from ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles to plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles is invaluable.” Soberano was recently certified through the program.
The EV Expert Certification Program will continue to expand in 2019 to include sales associates from Kauai, and increase the number of participating dealership representatives throughout the state.
“The EV Expert Certification Program is intended to break down one of the remaining barriers to EV adoption in the state, and the expansion of this program will ultimately help Hawaii achieve both 100% clean electricity and 100% clean transportation by 2045,” added Reichelt. “The more EV Experts we have connecting with consumers, the more EVs there will be on the road, and the faster we can transition to a clean energy future.”