Native Hawaiian college program receives electric vehicles for training


The University of Hawaii Maui College’s (UHMC) Native Hawaiian Career and Technical Educational Program received a donation of two 2012 Nissan Leaf electric vehicles (EV) from Hawaiian Electric to provide mechanics hands-on experience in maintaining and repairing EVs.

The Public Utilities Commission approved Hawaiian Electric’s proposed donation to the UHMC Native Hawaiian Career and Technical Educational Program in July after the company retired the aging vehicles from its fleet on Maui.

Established in 2019 as a result of community feedback collected by Hawaiian Electric and with a grant from the Native Hawaiian Education Association, the new program was developed to provide Native Hawaiians and other Hawaii residents, especially in rural areas of the state, career opportunities in the emerging field of EV maintenance and repair outside of original manufacturers’ warranties. This donation will be the first all-electric vehicles used for the program.

“We’re excited the donated EVs are taking on a second life as a hands-on learning tool for students in this specialized field,” said Sharon Suzuki, Hawaiian Electric’s president of Maui County and Hawaii Island Utilities. “We appreciate the University of Hawaii Maui College and the Native Hawaiian Education Association for offering this valuable training that further promotes the adoption of EVs to help offset the use of traditional fossil fuels on our islands.”

The new program also addresses a need that came up during discussions Hawaiian Electric conducted with the Molokai community.

“There was interest in EVs, but residents pointed out if they invested in the vehicles there were no on-island EV technicians who could provide servicing and repairs,” said Gregg Kresge, Hawaiian Electric’s electrification of transportation project delivery manager. “In further discussions with the vehicle mechanics on Molokai, all were enthusiastic about participating in EV training if it was available. Through collaboration, the University of Hawaii Maui College and the Native Hawaiian Education Association made this possible through this new program.”

The program held its first training session in June 2019 with all seven mechanics from Molokai participating in the inaugural class.

“We’re grateful to Hawaiian Electric – and specifically to Gregg and his electrification of transportation department – for recognizing a need on Molokai and taking action,” said UHMC Chancellor Lui Hokoana. “Working together with UHMC and the Native Hawaiian Education Association, not only are all seven of Molokai’s automotive mechanics now versed in servicing electric and hybrid vehicles, but our own automotive technology students are benefiting from the donation of these two Nissan Leaf electric vehicles. Partnerships like these move our community forward.”

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