The first electric car that will be allowed on the roads of Cayman’s smallest island was delivered last week to resident Raoul Pal.
Its delivery came a decade after another electric vehicle arrived on Little Cayman – a four-seater car without doors that was never allowed to drive off its owner’s private property because it did not meet road specifications at the time.
Cayman Automotive owner John Felder, who delivered the new Wheego electric vehicle to Mr. Pal last week, said he plans to get the older electric vehicle in working order again. It was purchased by Sonny Rhian of Mississippi for his vacation home on Little Cayman.
In 2005, shortly after the $12,000 electric vehicle was delivered to Little Cayman, Mr. Rhian told the Cayman Compass that he had been informed he could not legally operate it.
“I am really disappointed because we are not able to use the vehicle off our property,” Mr. Rhian said at the time. “It seemed like the ideal vehicle for Little Cayman because it cannot go faster than the speed limit. I would use it to drive to the store and for picnics and snorkeling trips, things like that.”
After receiving the no-go from government, the vehicle was parked at the Rhian family’s home and never taken out again. Mr. Rhian died a few years later, and the unused electric car sat in the garage for the better part of 10 years until last Thursday when Mr. Rhian’s son Walter took it out for Mr. Felder to see.
The car will need some work, it appears.
“The batteries are gone, they’re dead,” Mr. Felder said. “We’ll also have to get the windshield replaced. It has become discolored and that will never pass inspection.”
Luckily, the dealership that sold Mr. Rhian the vehicle still has all the parts. “If the family agrees, I’m going to get them to bring it to Grand Cayman and let my technician work on it. I can even get a license for it [on Grand Cayman],” Mr. Felder said.
The tiny car cannot go above 25 miles per hour and would be classified as a “neighborhood electric vehicle” under the 2011 version of the Cayman Islands Traffic Law and Road Code. Normally, that would mean it could not be driven on local thoroughfares, but as the maximum speed limit on Little Cayman is 25 mph, it can be driven there.
“There’s no better place than Little Cayman for an electric car … It’s flat, no hills, no great distance to travel,” Mr. Felder said, pointing out that gas prices on the 200-resident island still hover around US$7 per gallon. “Every one of the people that I spoke to [last week] wanted to buy an electric car,” he said.
Little Cayman does not have any charging stations, but Mr. Felder said that because Mr. Pal’s vehicle is powered by lithium ion batteries, it can be plugged into outlets at his home.
There are a number of electric car charging stations in operation on Grand Cayman, including at East End’s Reef Resort, Governors Square, the Crighton Building, the Budget Rent-A-Car property and Camana Bay. A new charging station at Kaibo Beach Bar in North Side is expected to come online soon.
The next step, according to Mr. Felder, who owns the charging stations, is to set up electric car charging stations at each Foster’s Food Fair supermarket on Grand Cayman.
“I hope by the end of second quarter [June], we will have some of the charge stations completed in Foster’s,” Mr. Felder said.