HONOLULU --- Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle and Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place, have unveiled a plan to bring an electric car network to Hawaii.

"Today's announcement is a significant move towards our state gaining independence from foreign oil," Lingle said. "This public-private partnership is exactly the type of investment we have been working on as we continue to carry out our Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), moving toward the goal of 70 percent clean energy for the state of Hawaii."

Better Place, a leading sustainability mobility operator, plans to begin permitting for the network within the next year and begin introducing vehicles within 18 months, with mass-market availability of electric cars in 2012. Hawaii joins Israel, Denmark, Australia and California in its commitment to deploying the world's first electric car networks.

Hawaii spends up to $7 billion a year on oil imports and drivers pay some of the highest gasoline prices in the nation, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the state's green house gases (GHG). Building the infrastructure for widespread adoption of electric vehicles will not only stimulate the local economy and reduce carbon emissions, but also provide a more affordable transportation option for Hawaii's drivers.

Hawaiian Electric Companies and Better Place Hawaii signed an agreement to collaborate on both the infrastructure and energy sources to power Better Place's network of public charging spots and battery swapping stations with renewable energy.

"The Better Place plan will provide immediate benefits to consumers and encourage the addition of more renewable energy resources to our grid, an essential element of HCEI," said Robbie Alm, Hawaiian Electric executive vice president. "Because Better Place will manage when vehicles are recharged, they can provide a market for renewable energy output in off-peak hours when it might otherwise not be needed."

The arrival of Better Place Hawaii furthers the progress of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) signed in January. The goal is to meet the state's energy needs from 70 percent clean energy by 2030, as well as to foster economic growth and build the workforce of the future.  

"While oil prices have recently come down from their historic highs, we believe this volatility highlights the urgency for a transformation to renewable energies," said Ted Liu, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. "As we begin to break our addiction to foreign oil, we will be a model for the rest of the nation and the world."