Government gets its first electric vehicle

Van will deliver packages for Postal Service

The Cayman Islands Postal Service will deliver packages to George Town offices in 2016 using government’s first electric vehicle, a Nissan van, which Cayman Automotive delivered Thursday. 

The NV-200e commercial van, which is about 15 feet long, will be pressed into use by the postal service as soon as the Department of Vehicle and Equipment Services clears it for road use, checking the mechanics and applying the distinctive official decal to the doors. 

“We don’t have an actual date yet,” said Deputy Postmaster General for Operations and Human Resources Melissa Martinez-Ebanks, “but it will be very soon, maybe a week.” 

Courier and express delivery 

The van will be used for the Postal Service’s courier and express delivery in a radius of between three and four miles from the airport branch of the post office, delivering up to 30 packages a day to offices in the George Town and Seven Mile Beach areas. 

Cayman Automotive owner John Felder predicted “they’re going to fall in love with this van.” 

DVES officials, for their part, addressed questions of efficiency, infrastructure and costs. 

“The thought behind this is ‘going green,’ but it’s not cheap,” said a DVES official, asking not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “There has been a lot of discussion about going green, and the government playing its part, so the Postal Service is the test bed.” 

“But the question is if the infrastructure is in place to handle an electric vehicle. We don’t have an island-wide infrastructure in place,” he said. 

The vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries “create a whole different certificate for operating,” he said, while “design, diagnostics and repairs are totally different and costly.” 

Top speed of 76 mph 

The $37,000 vehicle offers 148 cubic feet of cargo space. It costs US 5 cents per mile to operate. Its top speed is 76 miles per hour, and a single charge will last 106 miles. 

Charging is among the issues facing the DVES. 

“We have a battery pack at DVES, but what happens if, say, the vehicle is at Rum Point. We need more infrastructure for the whole island if we want to regularize the import of electric vehicles,” the official said. 

Mr. Felder said once DVES works out the mechanics of the vehicles, the advantages will be plain: “We have given them a charger as part of the deal. There won’t be a lot of issues: There is no transmission, no gasoline, no oil, no filters, no belts and hoses, no transmission, no differential and nothing to break, just clean running. It gets 100 miles on a charge,” which costs between $3 and $5, compared to between $20 and $25 for gasoline to travel the same distance.” 

“They have a charging station at the post office now, and they can charge off any AC outlet. They don’t need to worry about infrastructure,” Mr. Felder said, pointing to eight recharging stations between West Bay’s Cayman Automotive Museum and East End’s Wyndham Reef Resort. 

Mr. Felder said a program to build 14 additional charging stations across Grand Cayman will start early next year, undertaken by Cayman Automotive partner, Saskatchewan’s Sun Country Highway, which has built two of the island’s extant stations, 1,000 more across Canada and is closing in on its goal to open another 1,000 by the end of 2015. 

Both Mr. Felder and the DVES anticipate importing more electric vehicles for both private and official use, pending the results of the postal service test. 

The government motor pool comprises 1,100 vehicles, including cars, trucks and a variety of motorized equipment that burn nearly $2.5 million worth of diesel and petrol per year. 

Reducing government’s diesel and petrol consumption, the DVES official said, “hinges on how well this pilot program goes, but, yes, we’ll have more EVs, and if not 100 percent electric, then hybrid technology is where we need to go.” 

Increasingly widespread and broadly accepted, “hybrid” technology combines petrol and electric power in such popular cars as the Honda Accord, Chevrolet Volt, Ford Fusion and Toyota Prius. 

Ms. Martinez-Ebanks of the postal service echoed DVES, saying she was happy to see more electric vehicles, “depending on how this [pilot] works out.” 

Mr. Felder was unequivocal. “Yes, there will be more,” he said, alluding to a pending deal with a major local company for a fleet of as many as five electric vehicles. 

“We’re real close to signing the deal,” he said. “It will make us and Cayman leaders in the Caribbean.” 

Jon Harvey, a representative of Cayman Automotive, delivered the electric vehicle to the Department of Vehicle and Equipment Services on Thursday. - Photo: Kelsey Jukam

Jon Harvey, a representative of Cayman Automotive, delivered the electric vehicle to the Department of Vehicle and Equipment Services on Thursday. – Photo: Kelsey Jukam

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