Flap over electric cars

General Motors sent out a notice to local media outlets this week recommending that Cayman Islands car customers buy new Chevy vehicles directly at the local 
authorised dealership.

“Recently, there was a situation with a Chevrolet Volt, GM’s extended range electric vehicle, which was exported from the United States into the Cayman Islands by an entity different than General Motors,” the notice stated. “Outside the (US and Canada), no General Motors dealer shall endorse warranty, or service to these vehicles.

“The Chevrolet Volt is a vehicle with highly advanced technology that requires GM’s official support in order to get the best performance,” said GM Managing Director for Central America and the Caribbean Ernesto Ortiz.

The notice refers to a new Chevy Volt model that was imported by John Felder of Cayman Automotive earlier this year. The Volt was the first primarily electrically-powered vehicle to be registered for use on Cayman’s main thoroughfares by the Department of Vehicles and Drivers Licensing. The car, which runs completely on electricity for the first 40 miles, and afterward uses petrol to power its electric engine, was sold to Caribbean Utilities Company.

Mr. Felder said Tuesday that CUC should have no problems.

“I already have hired my own electric car technician,” he said. “He’s been with me now about eight months. He will also be getting specialised training in the USA.”

Cayman Automotive has also purchased fault code computer scanning equipment needed to determine what has gone wrong with electric vehicles. Mr. Felder said his company would also do its own repairs with parts ordered from the United States, if necessary.

Although fully electric powered vehicles are not allowed on Cayman’s roads, Cayman Automotive has sold some electric cars to Camana Bay and also to the Flowers Group, mainly for security patrol purposes in parking lots. He said the company has had to make repairs on electric vehicles for both of those companies in the past year.

“On most of my cars [the warranty] is two years, 24,000 miles bumper-to bumper,” he said, adding that for some vehicles that’s reduced to a one-year, 12 month warranty.

“If you don’t serve your customers, you won’t be in business very long.”

Mr. Felder said the situation would be the same with anyone importing an American car out of the US who isn’t an authorised Chevy dealer. “They all do the same thing. They void the warranty on the vehicle,” he said.

In any case, Mr. Felder said the Chevy Volt won’t be his “bread and butter” car when he begins selling electric vehicles in Cayman – assuming that the government does change the law to allow those vehicles to be registered. Both Premier McKeeva Bush and senior civil servant Kearney Gomez have pledged to bring such a law before the Legislative Assembly. The two electric vehicles Cayman Automotive intends to import are the Wheego Life from the US, and the Tazzari Electric, which is made in Italy. He said those cars, entirely run on electric, travel between 65 and 85 miles per hour and can go 100 miles on a charge.

“They’re perfect for Cayman, perfect,” he said.

Although lawmakers have not produced any specific draft legislation that would amend the country’s Traffic Law to allow for electric cars, it’s believed two separate classifications for the vehicles will be proposed. The slower travelling,shorter range vehicles may be considered “neighbourhood electric vehicles” – for use on local roads where the speed limit does not get above 25-30 miles per hour.

Faster electric vehicles would then be registered along with all other automobiles for use on thoroughfares and roads above 30 miles per hour.

Plans are also in the works to create electric car charge-stations, but Mr. Felder said he wants to wait on those proposals until the government approves electric cars for road readiness. 

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Again – electric cars in Cayman are:

    – more gas spent (more diesel at CUC burned then gas in conventional car)

    – more environment hurt (as diesel burned by CUC more dangerous to environment than good high-octane gas)

    So, either find different, cheaper and more ecological electricity source (solar power, windpower, etc.), or stop lying to people that electrical cars are good for Cayman.

    People, don’t trust car producers. Their only goal is to increase sales to make electrical car production profitable. They don’t care about specifics of situation in Cayman (majority of electricity produced through diesel generation).

    Don’t by electrical cars if you really think about environment.

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  2. While Stan’s comment may be right that we may actually be hurting the environment by using electric cars, we have to start somewhere. The amount of diesel burned to produce the electricity to run the car would hopefully be less than if it was a conventional engine. And it would be help air quality on our major thoroughfares.

    And why the government is not actively investing in wind and solar power power is beyond me. Cayman is the perfect candidate for both!!

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  3. I doubt that a car engine is more efficient than CUC’s generators when it comes to producing power….but I would be interested in seeing some figures to compare the energy requirements to recharge an electrical car – especially with CUC rates at present (and future). Either way transportation costs are going up – unless you use solar energy to recharge the car!

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  4. to carpediem:

    Sorry to tell you that, but even very cautious estimates show that with electric cars against conventional cars you will have 2 gallons diesel burned at CUC against 1 gallon gas burned in car. Ratio is 2:1.

    The most ineffective part is charging the battery – to charge battery 100% you need to spend 150% energy.

    Also there is energy loss on power lines (not much, but it adds up) and some additional effects related to loss of energy even when battery is not used.

    And diesel generator has approximately the same effeciency ratio compared to car engine.

    Plus don’t forget that even electrical engine is still 90-95% (not 100%!) efficiency, so even at that point the power is still lost.

    The REALLY BIG problem here is that IN THIS SPECIFIC situation interest of car producers and oil companies meets. Oil companies apparently interested in selling 2 times diesel instead of gas (cheaper in transportation still more profitable even if you compare that diesel is cheaper). Car companies would increase sale, achieve their break even points and get profit. Mr. Felder would most likely get some kind of bonus for penetrating Cayman market.

    That’s it. Only losing party is Cayman and Cayman people.

    For those who think that I am talking crap – why not demanding Government to employ experts to find out the truth before allowing electrical cars in Cayman?

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  5. Reducing dependence on fossil fuel is always exciting news. The price in the US of the Chevy Volt is over 40K and as I weight helping the environment vs making financially wise choices, I conclude: At an average of 50 a week for gasoline times 50 weeks in a year is about 3K. If I buy a regular car for 20K, the money I save can fuel the car for at least 5 years! The price must come down or it’s just a novelty.

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