Charging onto Cayman’s roads

Nobody set record times driving the small electric car around a tight course in Boatswain’s Beach’s parking lot, but their smiles certainly told a tale.

electric smile

Chief Inspector Angelique Howell (right) clearly enjoyed her test drive of the new GEM electric car. Her passengers on the test drive included PC Devon Bailey (left) and PC Sharon Baillie (centre). Photo: Eugene Bonthuys

The event was the Cayman launch of the Global Electric Motorcars electric car and representatives from various organisations on island were presented with the opportunity to test drive the vehicle.

‘I was so pleased by the event and overwhelmed by the response the car received,’ said Mr. John Felder, President and CEO of Cayman Automotive, the company behind bringing the vehicle to Cayman.

The RCIPS was well represented at the launch with West Bay Area Commander Chief Inspector Angelique Howell taking a turn behind the wheel of the GEM. Even though her first circumnavigation of the course had her passengers, including Mr. Felder, looking rather nervous, Ms Howell clearly enjoyed the experience as she took the car for a second much smoother spin through the road cones delineating the course.

Another driver to spend time behind the wheel of the GEM was Mr. Richard Hew, President and CEO of CUC.

‘I think being a small community and the range we have to drive in our automobiles on a daily basis there is a good fit for the vehicles,’ he said.

As electricity supplier to Cayman, CUC has a keen interest in the development of the electric vehicle industry.

‘We will do whatever is necessary for us to facilitate the industry and with the US automobile industry gearing up to go towards electric vehicles, things that happen in the US tend to happen here in Cayman as well,’ said Mr. Hew.

Classified as a Neighbourhood Electric Vehicle in the United States, the GEM is limited to a top speed of 25 miles per hour. Depending on the state in which the vehicle is operated, it is allowed on roads with speed limits up to 35 miles per hour.

GEM, which is a division of Chrysler Corporation, manufactured its first electric vehicle more than a decade ago. Since then various refinements have been made to increase the range, safety and comfort of the vehicles. All GEM vehicles are equipped with three point safety belts, headlamps, windshield wipers and safety glass in order to allow on road operation. The batteries charge from a standard 110V outlet, taking between six and eight hours to reach a full charge. The range on a single charge is around 30 miles.

With the short distances most commuters travel in Cayman, as well as the often congested traffic, an electric vehicle like the GEM seems like a perfect fit. The zero emissions nature of the vehicle, along with the fact that it uses no power while stationary in traffic gives it definite advantages over its gasoline guzzling brethren. As the GEM is driven by an electric motor it is also very quiet.

Under current legislation, vehicles such as the GEM cannot be licensed in the Cayman Islands, but Mr. Felder hopes that bringing the vehicle to Cayman will serve as a catalyst for change as it will allow the vehicle to be evaluated by the authorities.

‘This is the future of the automotive industry. Oil is not a sustainable resource, it is going to go away one day, so it is time we start thinking about alternative fuel sources,’ said Mr. Felder.

The GEM is available in a number of configurations, ranging from a compact two-seater up to a six-seater. There are also pickup models available, with the GEM eL XD boasting a cargo capacity of 1,100 pounds.

Even though the GEM cannot be licensed in Cayman yet, Mr. Felder is so confident that legislation will be changed that Cayman Automotive has started a waiting list for people anxious to be among the first in Cayman to drive one of these unique vehicles.

‘It is just the perfect vehicle for the Cayman Islands,’ he said.

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