Report Lays Roadmap for Hawaii’s Autonomous Vehicle Future

In a time of rapid change and adaptation within transportation, Ulupono Initiative in association with Me3 today released a new report, titled “Framework for Hawaii’s AV Future: Accessible, Automated, Connected, Electric, and Shared,” outlining strategies that would help Hawaii chart its own autonomous vehicle (AV) and mobility future clearly.

“Autonomous vehicles can be a threat or a part of the solution,” according the report’s author, Kelley Coyner, founder and CEO of Mobiltye3 (Me3). “Whether Hawaii is ready, automated vehicles and other disruptive technologies continue to proliferate. COVID-19 has highlighted opportunities to strengthen vital supply chains with automated and electric mobility from trucks to shuttles to e-cargo bikes. The chance is now to create an accessible, automated, connected, electric, and shared (A2CES) mobility future that promotes equity, the environment, and economic opportunity for all in Hawaii.”

Beginning in fall 2018, Ulupono Initiative collaborated with local and state government agencies to bring stakeholders together to lay the groundwork for accelerating development and deployment of AVs to maximize associated benefits to the people of the state. Me3 helped to articulate an A2CES vision of mobility and recommend a framework of private- and public-sector collaboration. According to Coyner, this framework provides an actionable roadmap to achieve economic sufficiency for Hawaii, reach renewable energy goals, and give those who cannot drive more autonomy through mobility. 

“Few other communities are as immediately impacted by the shifting balance of global climate and the urgent necessity to identify and implement sustainable solutions,” said Murray Clay, president of Ulupono Initiative. “Ground transportation represents a tremendous opportunity because we import about a third more gallons of fossil fuels for ground transportation as for electricity production. Legal, safety, policy, infrastructure, planning and mobility innovation issues will all have to be addressed across broad and varied disciplines to improve equitable access to opportunities, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and realize economic opportunities.” 

The A2CES report acknowledges that Hawaii is in some ways already a leader in autonomous transportation. For example, Gov. David Ige’s signing of Executive Order 17-07 (Autonomous Vehicle Testing) made Hawaii the first state to identify its airport for deployment of autonomous shuttles. In addition, Honolulu is moving closer to opening the first stage of its automated rail transit system, joining Vancouver and Copenhagen with an automated elevated metro that will be the first fully driverless system in the United States. 

However, the report describes “disruptive technologies” as having “turned upside down the regulatory paradigm” and purports that the effect of Hawaii’s accomplishments is lessened due to a lack of clarity over the conditions for deploying these vehicles on public roadways.

The report proposes five key strategies for Hawaii to shape its A2CES future:

  • Confirm the legal framework for safe operation of AVs on public roads including developing guidance or regulations. 
  • Adopt policies and initiatives at the state and local levels designed to ensure the public’s interest in equitable and environmentally sound travel that is powered by renewable energy and promotes economic vitality. 
  • Bake A2CES readiness, including electric charging from renewable resources, into public and private sector investments including rail stations, rail catchment areas, station access, and roadway and multimodal pathways. 
  • Incorporate AV and electric vehicle considerations into all aspects of planning, public and private, so that the vision of A2CES is recognized and realized through land use, economic development, and transportation planning. 
  • Launch a program of A2CES-focused technology demonstration projects across modes, while prioritizing projects that expand renewable resources. 

Paniolo Cattle Company Formed by Parker Ranch and Ulupono Initiative

Following a successful grass-fed beef trial on Hawaii Island, Parker Ranch and Ulupono Initiative announced the launch of the Paniolo Cattle Company, a joint venture aimed at statewide local beef production. The pasture-to-table enterprise taps into a growing demand for high-quality, affordable, locally raised beef.

Parker Cows

Paniolo Cattle Company will begin with 1,400 head of cattle to be raised at Parker Ranch on Hawaii Island.  This represents the largest commitment of grass-fed beef by a single ranch in the state and will increase the supply of grass-fed steers to the market by nearly 35 percent.

Parker Ranch provides calves and cattle management expertise for the joint venture and Ulupono Initiative contributes the intellectual capital to develop best practices for profitability and sustainable agricultural methods.  Both entities have financial interest and will handle the commercial aspects of the business.  Parker Ranch, headquartered in Waimea on Hawaii Island, is Hawaii’s largest cattle operation, and the state’s second largest landowner.

Ranching profitability has long been impacted by fluctuating costs of oil and corn.  The price of cattle over the last decade has increased about 57 percent, while the price of feed has increased 129 percent, causing conventional ranching returns to suffer.  Paniolo Cattle Company seeks to reduce costs substantially by animal husbandry based on sound pasture management.

“This joint venture is about trying to level the cost of beef, creating an at-home thriving cattle industry that is energy-efficient and protects us against volatility in fuel and feed costs,” said Dutch Kuyper, CEO of Parker Ranch. “Restaurants, food markets and consumers want quality and consistency in beef, at reasonable prices.”

The goal is to create a more robust local beef supply chain and ensure that a quality, consistent product is available to all Hawaii consumers, not just the high-end market.  In the pre-commercial trial on Hawaii Island, conducted from September 2012 to May 2013, 80 percent of the beef was graded “choice.”

Market research conducted by Ulupono indicated that Oahu consumers would make the shift to local beef if the quality was consistent and prices were reasonable.  Ulupono has been exploring the grass-fed beef model for nearly four years.
“We view this as an equal partnership of capital and capabilities based on shared values, mutual respect, and a commitment to the future of ranching in Hawaii,” said Kyle Datta, general partner of Ulupono Initiative.  Ulupono Initiative is an impact investment firm focused on Hawaii operations that promote a self-reliant community.
Paniolo Cattle Company plans to expand statewide and has begun talks with ranchers on Oahu, Maui and Kauai to broaden the program’s reach and benefit Hawaii ranchers, processors, and consumers in every county.  The pace of expansion will be based on the market demand.

Kuyper and Datta said meetings with Gov. Neil Abercrombie and cattle ranchers were the catalyst behind pursuing a value-based brand that increases the sustainability of Hawaii’s food supply and reduces the headwinds facing the local ranching industry.  “The State understands the food security issues. We’ve gotten a lot of support and guidance from Scott Enright, State Department of Agriculture board chair,” said Datta.

Paniolo Cattle Company will be involved in the full cycle of beef production, from grazing and finishing to working with processors and distribution.

In the initial grass-fed stage, cattle are free to roam and graze pasture until they reach about 800 pounds. The finishing stage requires active management to assure consistent nutrition to grow to 1,150 pounds, which produces high-quality meat that has the tenderness consumers seek.  Paniolo Cattle Company will operate irrigated finishing forage pastures and employ rotational pasture techniques to achieve consistency and quality, an approach not widely practiced in Hawaii.

“Parker Ranch and Ulupono Initiative both share the core value of caring about our aina and we’re committed to finding solutions that allow us to be here for the long-term providing affordable, high quality food for our community,” said Datta.  “The rotational grazing approach is a regenerative agricultural method that will improve soil health and increase pasture fertility.  Converting pasture to higher yield grasses, and reinvesting in our natural capital will pay dividends for years to come.”

Ulupono Initiative Invests $350,000 in OpConnect Hawai‘i to Boost Hawai‘i’s EV Charging Infrastructure

Ulupono Initiative today announced a strategic investment of $350,000 in Hawai‘i’s emerging electric vehicle industry through OpConnect Hawai‘i, which is preparing to install Mark II charging stations throughout the state.


“At Ulupono, we believe that helping consumers feel confident that they can drive where they need to go without range anxiety is critical to widespread adoption of electric vehicles,” said Ulupono Initiative’s Managing Partner Murray Clay. “By investing in support of those who drive EVs, we’re helping achieve our goal of reducing Hawai‘i’s dependence on imported oil with more efficient technology,” Clay added.

“We are excited to receive the investment and support from the Ulupono Initiative,” said Dexter Turner, OpConnect Hawai‘i CEO. “This will ensure Hawai‘i’s EV drivers have a reliable and easy-to-use station for charging their electric vehicles throughout the islands. Together, we are helping the state of Hawai‘i realize its green energy goals.”

OpConnect Hawai‘i operates the largest network of charging stations in Hawai‘i with 83 charge spots on O‘ahu, Maui, Kaua‘i, and Hawai‘i Island. The OpConnect Network has nearly 1,000 EV drivers in Hawai‘i registered for its OpConnect network with more signing up each week. In March, the company took over the Hawai‘i operations of Better Place and plans to replace the Better Place charge spots with OpConnect stations by this fall.

OpConnect’s newly designed Mark II Level 2 public charging station builds on the company’s innovative reputation and features include a 15-inch display, high-resolution touch-screen display and integrated security cameras.

OpConnect’s EV charging stations are advanced technology smart charging stations that are approved for indoor and outdoor installations.  All units include wireless communications and are part of the integrated OpConnect Electric Vehicle Charging System®, which includes a web portal and smart phone application to locate available charging stations, manage accounts and track individual or fleet electricity usage.  The OpConnect charging stations are Smart Grid ready to work with utilities to help balance the load on the electric grid.


Ulupono Initiative Invests $1 Million In Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning

Ulupono Initiative announced today that it has invested $1 million in Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning, LLC (HSWAC) for the development of the company’s seawater air conditioning district cooling system.


“This investment will help HSWAC begin construction in 2014 of one of the largest energy-efficiency projects in Hawaii,” said Murray Clay, managing partner of Ulupono Initiative. “The system promises significant savings in energy that will help move us closer to our goal of more renewable energy use for the state.”

When it begins operation, HSWAC’s district cooling system will eliminate the need for 178,000 barrels of oil per year by saving enough electricity to power more than 10,000 homes. The system will provide an alternative to using imported fossil fuels to cool downtown Honolulu, which will decrease the island’s environmental footprint and the state’s oil dependency.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with Ulupono on this project,” said Eric Masutomi, president and CEO of Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning. “Not only do the missions of both organizations – to create a more sustainable future for Hawaii – align perfectly, Ulupono’s investment represents a strong vote of confidence in the potential of HSWAC’s deep seawater cooling technology to greatly improve the quality of life in our island community.”

“It’s fully proven at multiple locations in Europe and the United States, so there is zero technological risk,” said Clay. “And, the system also saves significant amounts of fresh water, when compared to conventional cooling.”

The system will cool water to provide air conditioning to buildings in downtown Honolulu by pumping deep ocean water through a pipeline more than four miles offshore to a cooling station in Kakaako.

About 70 percent of a building owner’s air conditioning cost typically goes toward operating cooling systems that include on-site chillers, condenser pumps and cooling towers. Operating costs prove volatile, as they are affected by increasing costs of electricity, water, wastewater and other infrastructure expenses.

District cooling creates a way to convert large blocks of buildings to energy-efficiency measures rather than one at a time. This project is expected to create the opportunity for expansion of district cooling projects across the state.

Additional project partners include the Capital Cooling Group and Renewable Energy Innovations (REI). Capital Cooling, the leading European deep-water cooling expert, is serving as a management consultant as well as a $500,000 co-investor with Ulupono on this Hawaii project. Capital Cooling was also involved in the 80,000-ton deepwater air conditioning project in Stockholm, and REI, through its affiliated company Ever-Green Energy, owns and operates district cooling and heating systems in Minnesota. Other team members are Hawaii-based Makai Ocean Engineering, involved in the 20,000-ton deepwater air conditioning project built in 2000 in Ithaca, N.Y.; R.M. Towill Corporation; Yogi Kwong Engineers; and InSynergy Engineering.  All three are well-known Hawai‘i design companies in the fields of civil, geotechnical and mechanical engineering.

The HSWAC system annually reduces potable water consumption for air conditioning by more than 260 million gallons. Each year it also reduces sewage discharge by up to 84 million gallons, and avoids emissions of 84,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Combined, this is the equivalent of removing 15,000 cars from the road per year. The project is anticipated to generate more than $200 million in construction spending in Honolulu and create more than 900 construction jobs.

The team estimates the new system will reduce electricity usage by 77,000 MWh per year, which is the equivalent of a 30-megawatt wind farm; or a 53-megawatt solar farm, more than all of the utility scale photovoltaic systems currently operating in Hawai‘i.  Customers who have already signed on include Hawaiian Electric Co., Finance Factors, First Hawaiian Center, and One Waterfront Towers.

Volta Expanding Free Electric Vehicle Charging Station Network

Ulupono Initiative today announced it has invested $175,000 in Volta Industries to help expand its Hawai‘i network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. This investment will help Volta more than double its current network in Hawai‘i with 15 new free-to-use charging stations planned for 2013 statewide.  To date, Volta and its sponsors have given away more than 120,000 miles of free charging to Hawai‘i EV drivers.


“Mass adoption of electric vehicles has the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of fossil fuels imported to Hawai‘i for passenger cars and trucks,” said Murray Clay, managing partner of Ulupono Initiative. “One of the most important reasons consumers say they don’t choose EVs is concern about their limited range. Increasing the number of stations statewide means more consumers will be able to easily charge their vehicles and avoid range anxiety. This investment will increase the total number of EV charging stations in the state by 6 percent and help support an estimated 2,500 electric vehicles projected on Hawai‘i’s roads by the end of this year. By increasing adoption of EVs, we’re helping achieve our goal of reducing our dependence on imported oil with more efficient technology.”

Volta designs, installs and maintains public EV charging networks, and provides the energy to the EV driver, all free-of-cost to both the driver and the community.


Companies sponsor each Volta station – providing free EV charging as a service to the community. The stations are designed and built by Volta and provide approximately 15 to 20 miles worth of range per hour of charging.

“Currently we have 14 active charging stations with another 15 in the pipeline on Oahu and Maui, all of which help facilitate the adoption of this clean technology,” said Scott Mercer, Volta CEO and Co-Founder.  “With the investment funds, we can speed up our plans to expand our network to reach more EV owners statewide.”

“We want this to create a greater impact than just providing a service to EV drivers,” said Steve Markowitz, Volta Vice Chairman. “Our goal is to excite people about electric vehicles and clean-tech in general.”


Electric vehicle sales have been strong in Hawai‘i; the state saw the highest per-capita sales of electric vehicles in the nation in 2011. There are 1,437 electric cars registered on O‘ahu, according to state figures as of May 2013. To compare the efficiency of electric vehicles to conventional vehicles, the state Department of Business, Economic  Development and Tourism has tracked mileage for  the last two decades in Hawai‘i and estimated an average of 19 miles per gallon in 2011. The average mile per gallon equivalent for electric vehicles now on the road ranges from 90 to 115.

Where’s the Beef… Ask Hawaii Hawaii Beef Producers, Parker Ranch and Ulupono Initiative

Hawaii Beef Producers Join Parker Ranch and Ulupono Initiative in Joint Development Agreement For Large-Scale Grass-Fed Beef Trials

Hawai‘i Beef Producers has joined Parker Ranch and Ulupono Initiative in an agreement to jointly fund pre-commercial trials for irrigated finish pasture beef production on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. The irrigated trials will be run on 70 acres of pasture next to the Hawai‘i Beef Producers processing facility on the Hamakua Coast and involve just under 100 head of cattle. The trials will be completed by May 2013.

“We’re pleased to be joining in these trials to help find the most cost-effective, timely method toward increasing our overall local grass-fed beef production,” said David De Luz, Jr., Hawai‘i Beef Producers. “Everyone’s collaboration on this study will help ranchers statewide determine the potential for developing commercially based grass-fed feedlots, or pasture finishing companies, to meet consumer demands for high-quality local beef that everyone can afford.”

In these pre-commercial trials, Hawai‘i Beef Producers is testing the impacts of fertilized, irrigated grass using the Hamakua Ditch Irrigation System, and Parker Ranch is studying the impact of using fertilized, non-irrigated grass. In addition, Kamehameha Schools is doing its own trial on unfertilized, irrigated pasture in Hamakua. The outcomes from all of the trials will be combined and shared with all partners as well as the Hawai‘i Cattlemen’s Association and the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) to help determine which combination of methods are best for lowering the production costs and improving the quality of locally produced grass-fed beef.

“These trials are integral to helping further Hawai‘i’s agricultural sector, so it’s great to have Hawai‘i Beef Producers join,” said Kyle Datta, general partner for Ulupono Initiative. “We’re so pleased to be able to help catalyze this partnership with our local ranching community to help inspire other Hawai‘i ranchers to consider grass-fed as an option. In addition, the combined trials using the Hamakua Ditch Irrigation System will help provide insights on commercially viable water rates for finish pasture operations, which will be key to the expansion of local beef production and could have statewide implications.”

Dutch Kuyper, CEO of Parker Ranch, said, “The interest and collaboration among our fellow ranchers for these trials is a sign of positive momentum. It gives us additional confidence that our research and investment in grass-fed beef is a good decision for our business model and for the scale of the Hawai‘i beef industry as a whole.”

About Hawai‘i Beef Producers

The De Luz family has been ranching for three generations on the 10,000 acre Kukai‘au Ranch located in Pa‘auilo on the Hamakua Coast of Hawai‘i Island. Hawai‘i Big Island Beef is its grass-fed beef product, which is processed at its adjoining Hawai‘i Beef Producers slaughterhouse. To learn more about Hawai‘i Big Island Beef, please visit

About Parker Ranch

Parker Ranch is one of the largest and oldest cattle ranches in the United States. Parker Ranch is beneficially owned by Parker Ranch Foundation Trust with four non-profits as beneficiaries including North Hawai‘i Community Hospital, Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy, Parker School and Hawai‘i Community Foundation. To learn more, please visit

About Ulupono Initiative

Ulupono Initiative is a Hawai‘i-focused impact investing firm that uses for-profit and non-profit investments to improve the quality of life for island residents in three areas – locally produced food; clean, renewable energy; and waste reduction. To learn more, please visit

Ulupono Initiative, SolarCity Partner to Invest $15 Million to Finance Local Solar Power Projects

Ulupono Initiative, a for-profit impact investment firm, is investing a total of $15 million over the next year to finance SolarCity solar power projects in Hawai‘i. The partnership is expected to increase Hawaii’s solar power generation by approximately five percent, and can be expanded over time.

“Ulupono is investing in this partnership with SolarCity to bring affordable solar power to local customers that can help them manage their rising utility bills,” said Kyle Datta, general partner of Ulupono Initiative. “We see SolarCity as a strong, nationally-recognized partner with a world-class supply chain that is committed to hiring locally, and is well-positioned to help further our work to decrease Hawai‘i’s dependence on outside sources for the state’s energy needs.”

“We’re truly excited about this collaboration, which will provide local financing to help customers in Hawai’i protect themselves from rising electricity costs through clean, homegrown energy provided by SolarCity’s local workforce,” added Jon Yoshimura, director of government affairs for SolarCity. “Solar makes sense in Hawai’i and the partnerships with Ulupono Initiative will make it more affordable and accessible.”

“As we work to accelerate renewable energy in Hawai‘i, we’re identifying ways to use available incentives to help attract more institutional capital to innovative projects like these,” said Murray Clay, managing director of Ulupono Initiative. “Our hope is that this will catalyze others to replicate this structure. We believe this can expand solar development in Hawai‘i to increase renewable power generation to help meet the State’s energy goals.”

About Ulupono Initiative

Ulupono Initiative LLC is a for-profit impact investment firm that strives to improve the quality of life for the people of Hawai‘i by working toward solutions that create more locally grown food, increase clean renewable energy production and reduce waste. For more information about Ulupono Initiative, please visit

About SolarCity Hawai’i

SolarCity® provides Hawai’i homeowners, business and government organizations cleaner, more affordable alternatives to their utility bills from its local operations center in Mililani. The company makes it simple for customers to lock in lower, long-term rates for clean energy by providing everything from permitting and installation to ongoing monitoring and maintenance. Additional information about the company’s operations in Hawai’i is available on the Web at