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Japan’s island paradise is becoming even greener, as EV infrastructure takes root in Okinawa


Feb. 23 — Naha — The pristine islands of Okinawa — where the average family owns three cars.

But Okinawa is working to reduce that carbon footprint with EVs as integral to its plans.

The prefecture actively supports the use of electric taxis and buses, while over the past year 220 Nissan LEAF rent-a-cars have taken to the roads.

Nissan Rentalease Okinawa has 70 of those LEAFs, but company president Sojin Nakaima said more EVs are welcome.

Nakaima, who also runs Ryukyu Nissan Motor, said rent-a-cars will play a special role in the expansion of EV-use in Okinawa.

After three years, EV rentals can be sold at an even more affordable price on the used car market.

“I have no doubt that these 220 EVs will be in the used car market within three years,” said Nakaima. “Okinawa is not the kind of place where you recharge frequently because you drive long distances. This makes me makes think that Okinawa is a prefecture matched to EVs, just like Hawaii or Guam.”

Like the island-state of Hawaii, Okinawa is also developing clean energy projects to generate power from solar panels and wind turbines.

General Manager Munehisa Matsumoto of Advanced Energy Company, which installs quick chargers on the island, said plans are underway to use this power for EVs.

“Okinawa Prefecture is now proceeding with projects to construct a clean energy infrastructure. In Ogimi Village, there’s a wind power generation facility. And in Nago City, they’re planning to introduce solar power generators,” said Matsumoto. “I expect that there are plans to use clean energy to power EVs in the future.”

From April 1st in Nago city, a mega solar facility of 8,700 solar panels will provide 1 megawatt of solar power to the surrounding area and to Kanucha Bay Resort.

There, 15 chargers and LEAF rentals for guests are parked next to golf carts — until very recently the lone image of the potential of electric cars.

Eiichiro Nakamura, Kanucha Bay Resort’s General Manager, said the LEAFs help to keep the natural surroundings as green as possible.

“What we’ve taken from nature we want to restore, and I think that we can accomplish that here, and electric cars are part of that vision,” said Nakamura. “There are already many rent-a-cars on the island and if we make these EVs then it is one way in which we can protect the environment and reduce CO2 emissions.”

With its robust EV infrastructure, clean energy development and a business community focused on conservation, Okinawa may be at the southern end of Japan, but it is among the nation’s leaders on the path to sustainability.

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