Mauna Loa is one of the largest mountains in the world – it rises to over 13,000 feet above sea level and makes up about half of the Big Island. Its name is “Long Mountain” in Hawaiian – the dome over 75 miles long. Like Mauna Kea, this volcano is also snow-capped during our winters.
Are EVs (electric vehicles) up to the task of driving to the summit of mountains?
Absolutely! With the right EV, you can tackle a climb to high elevations better than a regular gas-powered car. Unlike cars with internal combustion engines, EVs are not affected by the low oxygen levels at high elevations. The main challenge is battery capacity and vehicle efficiency – the climb requires a good amount of energy. This is noticeable when driving across the island on Daniel K. Inouye Hwy (aka Saddle Road). During the climb, an EV (and any other car) can consume more energy compared to when driving on flat roads.
Once you start the downhill portion of the drive, your EV will be regenerating electricity and recharging your battery. This is a distinct advantage of EVs – while gas-powered vehicles are slowed by their brakes and downshifting to lower gears (burning gas and wearing down brake pads in the process), EVs slow down significantly when you let up on the accelerator. You essentially slow an EV without having to depress the brakes, and you’re regaining your battery charge at the same time! The amount of regenerative braking varies by EV model.
Big Island EV Association member, Jared Terpak, recently tackled Mauna Loa with his Chevy Bolt. He decided to drive to Mauna Loa from Hawi, before heading to our Drive Electric Week event in Hilo on September 16, 2017. Another member, Eric Hayden, joined him at the Saddle Road entry to Mauna Loa Scenic Drive. They made it to the Mauna Loa observatories in time for a wonderful sunrise.
Jared’s summary of the day’s driving adventure:
“I started out in Hawi at 500ft elevation with a full charge and drove about 70 miles up to the Mauna Loa Observatories at 11,000ft elevation using 30kWh or 50% of my battery. The image above was taken of the sunrise with Mauna Kea as a backdrop.
I then drove/coasted down to Hilo to join the BIEVA Drive Electric Week event at The Home Depot. During this leg of my trip, I regenerated back 7kWh or 11.6% of my battery.
Afterward the event, I drove back home via Saddle Road again. I arrived home after a 205-mile round trip having used 44.8kWh or 74% of my battery averaging 4.6miles/kWh. I am very pleased with the Chevy Bolt and the range I am getting from it on this Island.”
The Chevy Bolt is a long-range EV that is available now through DeLuz Chevy. If you are interested in learning more about the car and doing a test drive, contact the dealer and ask for their Bolt specialist, Cody Philips. You can also contact us (click Contact at the top of this page and send an email).
About Jared Terpak
Jared is a 30-year North Kohala resident. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelors in Technical Theater. After graduation, he returned to work with the Hawaii Preparatory Academy to create sets for high school productions. He is currently the Technical Director for HPA’s theater and oversees the design and build of all K-12 productions, at the Gates Performing Arts Center. He enjoys working on a green campus where all of its daytime energy is produced at HPA’s Photovoltaic micro-grid, next to its LEED Certified Energy Lab.
Jared’s EV journey started when he became frustrated with the cost to operate and maintain his Toyota Tacoma V6. His research for a more fuel efficient vehicle led him to the Golf TDI, and this led to the eGolf. Not satisfied with the range of this EV, he continued to search and eventually found the Chevy Bolt. He purchased his Bolt after flying to Oregon for a test drive. (It was not available in Hawaii at the time.) It is now his main vehicle and he raves about it.
“Now that I have my Bolt, I have not driven my truck in over 2 months and am considering selling it. I love driving my Chevy Bolt and pushing it to new limits. I am averaging 270 miles of range and have been able to take it up Mauna Loa Rd. to 11,000ft. My next adventure will be to drive it around the island on one charge!”