Electric cars stalled out

David Phipps is psyched about electric cars.

‘Electric cars is where it’s at,’ said Mr. Phipps, who runs the Electra-Tech Services Company in George Town. ‘Electric cars are needed on this island.’

Mr. Phipps has been trying for more than a year to bring vehicles powered solely by electricity to Grand Cayman. He said his business doesn’t ell cars, but one day he hopes that will change.

He has entered the long-running and apparently still unsolved discussion over alternative fuel vehicles in this country.

‘It’s necessary for us to look at hybrid vehicles,’ said Works and Infrastructure Minister Arden McLean. ‘There are a number of people who want…to bring them in.’

Jeremy Mills, who also works at Electra-Tech, said the issue has already dragged on for too long without a decision.

‘Hit a brick wall, passed the buck, that’s how it works,’ Mr. Mills said.

A few hybrid cars have already arrived. One of them is owned by John Gray high school teacher Richard McLeod who said he had the vehicle, a Prius, shipped over by Toyota in 2005.

‘I was going to the gas station about every week and a half to fill up my old Toyota Corolla. But now, I go once a month, and I’m using the car more,’ said Mr. McLeod, who adds he knows of at least one more person here who owns the same model car.

There is only one car completely powered by electricity known to exist in the Cayman Islands. It belongs to an American, Sonny Rhian, who lives in Mississippi. He vacations on Little Cayman three or four times a year.

Mr. Rhian is unable to drive the tiny car, which has a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour, anywhere other than his own property.

The problem appears to be at least partly due to classification. The government defines a motor vehicle as ‘any mechanically propelled vehicle manufactured or adapted for use on roads.’ It’s not clear whether electric cars qualify as mechanically propelled. The law does not specifically address electric powered vehicles.

Mr. McLean said he’s concerned the electric cars won’t be able to function on Grand Cayman highways.

‘A lot of those things are not necessarily capable of merging into traffic,’ said Mr. McLean. ‘The…roads are small and we come straight onto the highways in this country. We don’t have acceleration or deceleration lanes.’

‘It’s about the safety of the passengers in these vehicles as well. If they’re not designed to withstand the kind of accidents that other vehicles can withstand, I would be concerned.’

Mr. Rhian understands why his electric car can’t be used on Grand Cayman, but he said the situation in Little Cayman is different.

‘The maximum speed on Little Cayman is 25 miles per hour,’ said Mr. Rhian. ‘There’s no reason it would offer any problems to traffic, what little traffic there is in Little Cayman.’

For now, the issue appears to have stalled. But government acknowledges times are changing.

‘I don’t know if they’re going to be standard,’ said Mr. McLean. ‘But I’m sure it will come a time where these vehicles are developed to such a point where we won’t have any option but to allow them in, and I don’t think it will be in the long future either.’