Editorial for August 13: Long road to electric cars

It’s been a long and winding road, but it’s looking more likely these days that electric cars have a future on Cayman’s highways and byways.

John Felder of Cayman Automotive has been pushing to bring electric and hybrid vehicles to the Cayman Islands for several years. Finally, last year, members of the Legislative Assembly approved amendments to the Traffic Law that made it possible to register these cars for use on public roads.
Prior to the changes in the law, one could own an electric vehicle but could only drive it on private property and not on gazetted public roads.

Camana Bay snapped up an electric car a few years ago and used it as a security vehicle, but it was running on private avenues and car parks rather than on the open road.

Mr. Felder brought the first electric vehicle to Grand Cayman in 2009. Even if that car could legally have been taken for a spin down West Bay Road, if it ran out of juice, it wasn’t going to be easy recharging it because of a dearth of charging stations.

But that too is changing, and plans are afoot to introduce several charging stations so people can literally plug in their cars, fill up on electricity and get back on the road.
Two electric car charging stations are already in place. One is in Camana Bay and a second, aptly, at the Cayman Motor Museum in West Bay. The museum last year hosted the first Caribbean International Electric Car Show.

Mr. Felder hopes to see a network of charging stations across the island, with all of them eventually being powered by solar panels. He plans to have six in place by about this time next year.

Like early versions of electric cars themselves, changing the law governing their use in the Cayman Islands was not particularly speedy. Regulations had to be changed, for example, so that electric cars that were capable of travelling faster than 30 miles an hour could be licensed to operate on public roads, and first responders had to receive training to deal with any road traffic accidents involving electric vehicles.

Cost has frequently stood in the way of the introduction of cleaner energy to Cayman. Despite customs duty reductions on alternative energy items in the past, the initial outlay can be daunting, even when one considers the eventual savings that can be made on utility bills.

Late last year, the former United Democratic Party government authorised a reduction from 32 per cent import duty for electric cars and motorbikes to 22 per cent. Now, it seems that will drop to 10 per cent, a move that may help boost electric car ownership in Cayman. At the moment, there are only a dozen electric-powered vehicles licensed in Grand Cayman – the potentially “Clean Dozen”, if you will.

While initially the electricity to power these vehicles will come from diesel, in the long run, if the plans to make the stations solar powered come to fruition, the carbon footprint of vehicular use in Cayman will diminish, allowing for cleaner air and a greener Cayman.