It’s Electric! Boogie, Woogie, Woogie!

Most of us have known nothing but cars that run on petrol. We pull up to the station, we fill up, we drive off. Every time the price of fuel increases we groan but we suffer it, because in the end we’d rather pay more than give up our vehicles.

Until recently there has been no end in sight, and basically everyone has been wondering if there is $10 per gallon in our future. Maybe that’s what the Mayans were barking on about.

Electric or hybrid cars have featured on television, and environmentally-conscious celebrities have put them in the news – tossing aside their four-wheeled behemoths in favour of nippier models that are cleaner and quieter. After years of debate and preparation, it looks as though the Cayman Islands are on the brink of registering electric cars, making them available to drive on local roads.

John Felder, chief executive officer of Cayman Automotive, has been spearheading the initiative and says he is glad to see his efforts finally being rewarded. He already has Wheego models in Grand Cayman, and has been featuring them at a number of events – particularly those revolving around eco-friendly products.

The installation of charging stations is also being planned at a number of familiar locations. There will initially be four active stations strategically placed about Grand Cayman, with a total of 14 appearing in the future.

Of course, people want to know what it is like to drive one of these cars, and how it differs from their gas-guzzlin’, exhaust pipe-smokin’ transports. How far will they have to stray from their comfort zone to go electric? I decided to take one for a test drive and get the inside track on the Wheego. They don’t call me The Stig down here for nothing!

John decided he would ride in the passenger seat. I don’t know if it was so he could give me information as we went, or so he could make sure I didn’t crash his baby.

The first surprise was when I started the engine. There was no “vroom,” no exhaust fumes … no noise at all. It was honestly bizarre. I was being encouraged to put it in gear and start off, but I couldn’t get over the quiet. Normally when my car sounds (or doesn’t sound) like that, it means it’s broken. With the Wheego the complete opposite is true.

We exited the property and I quickly began to get used to the way it handled. I should note that the Wheego is a two-seater with a lot of storage area in the back. I am not considered a small woman, but I found the seat accommodating and comfortable. There was ample head room and my long, model’s legs (ahem) had easily enough space to manoeuvre.

The private road had a number of lumps and bumps and I hit the accelerator with gusto as we headed toward them. The smooth brakes allowed us to take tight corners without losing a couple of teeth and it had good suspension on the undulating tarmac and even a sizeable pothole that suddenly appeared out of nowhere … I swear. Another important point to mention at this stage: the Wheego has passed rigorous safety tests and features driver and passenger-side air bags along with a high strength unibody steel frame.

Once I had taken us for a tour of the area, I turned for the journey back. John seemed relieved. I have to say that as we pulled back up to our starting position, I found myself quite impressed with the Wheego. It was nice to drive on that first test, and as the engine was so quiet, I could hear my beautiful speaking voice with brilliant clarity. Where could I sign up for one of these marvellous vehicles?

The Wheego can go for 100 miles on a fully charged battery, and you simply plug it into the wall as you would a rather large toaster. There will be charging stations at Governor’s Square, Camana Bay, Kaibo and the Cayman Motor Museum which will actually power their station with solar panels. It can reach a maximum speed of 65 miles per hour which is all you need down here, and best of all, it costs a fraction of the price to power it.

It comes standard with air-conditioning which runs on a separate battery, so you don’t have to choose between staying cool or getting to your destination. It also has a stereo which of course you will be able to enjoy all the more because you’re not having to hear it over the sound of a petrol-driven engine. Most importantly, the Wheego comes in six exterior colours – White, Black, Red, Blue, Silver and Green (naturally.)

The Wheego is available for you to see at Cayman Automotive, and it will be on display at the Fashion in the Fast Lane event at the Cayman Motor Museum this Saturday evening. Expect to also encounter the fabulous AMP Mercedes ML in the coming months, and at the Expo in August, 2012.

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