In March 2011, John Felder was riding high.
“This has been a five-year journey,” Mr. Felder said outside the Grand Cayman Department of Vehicle and Drivers Licensing. “This is like a dream come true.”
The statement was made just after Mr. Felder – the owner of Cayman Automotive – had gotten his first Chevrolet Volt vehicle licensed by the department for use on Cayman’s roads. The mainly electric-powered vehicle that utilises a small amount of gas was seen as a forerunner of what was to come: Completely electric-powered vehicles on the roads of Grand Cayman for the first time.
More than a year later, the veteran car salesman’s dream is deferred. He hopes it won’t be denied.
“I’ve got five people that want to buy this vehicle, and I can’t sell it,” Mr. Felder said, this time at the vehicle licensing department on Wednesday.
He was trying to register the 100 per cent electric Mercedes 2010 AMP MLe and couldn’t do it. Department personnel who inspected the vehicle – which can travel up to 95 miles per hour and goes 125 miles on a charge – said they couldn’t register it.
They declined to provide a reason in writing, but staffers referred to the fact that a new Traffic Law, which allows for electric-powered vehicles to be driven on Cayman roads, hasn’t been given an effective date yet.
Regulations for the Traffic Law are still being drafted. The Caymanian Compass has not been given any date for when those might be approved or take effect.
Mr. Felder said he has been given legal advice that the old Traffic Law, parts of which remain operational until the new law is passed, allows for electric-powered cars to be driven on local roads. Government officials have repeatedly said the previous law did not allow for that.
“I’m going to ask for a judicial review,” Mr. Felder said, indicating that since the passage of the new Traffic Law, he has imported five fully electric-powered vehicles that his company is unable to sell.
“When the governor signed [the new Traffic Law] in November … I heard a word that I was not familiar with, called ‘regulations’,” Mr. Felder said. The law won’t take full effect until the regulations are approved by Cabinet, he was told.
That means electric vehicle sales can’t happen, unless Mr. Felder gets a court to say they are allowed under the old law.
He wrote to Deputy Director of Vehicle Licensing Richard Simms on Wednesday:
“The AMP MLe is one of the safest vehicles in the world … Based on the wording of the current roads law, I cannot see any reasons why this vehicle, which has a top speed of 95 mph, a horn, new tyres, turn signal indicators, five air bags and back up lights all in working order cannot be registered and licensed.”
Mr. Felder asked for a particular reason why the vehicle could not be registered.
No response had been received by press time Thursday.
Traffic Law delay
Officials with the Ministry of Works, which has overall responsibility for the Traffic Law and which led efforts to revamp the law last year, told the Compass earlier this year that changes to the law will take place.
The main hold-up, according to officials, is that regulations to accompany the law must be approved by Cabinet in order for most of the changes in the law to come into force.
“The regulations are being drafted and proofread now,” according to an earlier statement from the ministry. “Once complete, it will be taken to Cabinet for consideration.
Pending approval by Cabinet, the law and regulations will be brought into effect very shortly.”