Nascent EV market gets boost

A map of Grand Cayman showing electric car charging stations that are active, under construction or proposed.

Four new electric-vehicle charging stations will open this month around Grand Cayman, including at Lorna’s Rubis station in Bodden Town, which will offer free top-ups to motorists.

The installation of the single charger will make Lorna’s the only combination electric-gasoline station in the Caribbean and the U.S., according to Cayman Automotive President and CEO John Felder, who is building the new facilities.

Mr. Felder will import the latest high-end electric cars from California-based Tesla: its popular Model X Sports Utility Vehicle, and four-door Model S Performance P-85. Both will make their regional debut next month, unveiled at Cayman Automotive’s Grand Harbour showroom.

Also, the Post Office will acquire a second Nissan NV-200e electric commercial van this month, following the successful debut of the initial vehicle in mid-December.

Bonus at Lorna’s Rubis

“You can come in for a one-hour top-up, hang around, maybe patronize the grocery store or liquor store, whatever you want, and it’s free,” said Lorna’s Rubis Manager Alexis Bodden.

He explained that a top up – a one-hour charge that will supply 80 percent of an EV’s capacity – will be so inexpensive as to cost almost nothing. Mr. Felder earlier pegged the cost of a full overnight charge at between $3 and $4.

Mr. Bodden said the single charger, no larger than a parking meter, connected to the main Caribbean Utilities Company grid, will be located adjacent to the petrol station on separate family-owned land next to the Grape Tree Café.

“This is an exciting time,” he said. “There is a lot of move towards ‘green.’ Everything is moving towards renewable energy, so we thought we’d get on top of this before everyone else did.”

He expects a substantial expansion of the EV market, reinforced by Mr. Felder’s establishment of three more charging stations around the island: at the Kaibo Beach Bar and Restaurant, the Westin resort on Seven Mile Beach and at Cricket Square in George Town.
Charging stations

The new facilities will bring to 13 the number of stations island-wide. A Cayman Automotive map indicates another four in planning: at Andy’s Car Rental airport and Seven Mile Beach locations, and at Foster’s Airport and Savannah operations.

Each station is a “level 2” facility, offering one-hour “fast charge” top-ups to 80 percent on a 220-volt system employing a top-of-the-line J-1772 Connector linking the charger to the car. The one-hour charge enables a driver to travel 20 miles, Mr. Felder said. A full charge requires eight hours.

A level one station provides only a “trickle charge.” A level 3 station can supply a full charge at 240 volts in a single hour, but at significant cost.

Mr. Felder said his level 2 stations were inexpensive to install, costing $1,500, while level 3 stations exceed $10,000.

“Providing this service has an indirect return on investment,” Mr. Felder said, pointing to Dart Realty and its Camana Bay charging stations as an example.

“They attract EV customers to Camana Bay to live, shop, go to a movie, restaurant, etc.,” he said, anticipating market growth.

Only 45 EVs are on Cayman’s roads at present, but Mr. Felder says, “expect the ramp-up to increase as the first 100 percent electric SUV is about to be introduced under $25,000 to purchase.”

Mr. Felder refers to electric vehicles made by Jianghuai Automobile Company of China. One of the vehicles was delivered to a local client last week.

Ten more are en route, he said.

Also en route, are Tesla’s two top-line vehicles, the Model X Sports Utility Vehicle and the Model S four-door sedan.

Already, a smaller Model S has been operating locally for two years. Mr. Felder said he hopes to sell as many as 15 of the two models. Both models are appearing in the Caribbean for the first time, priced between $105,000 and $155,000. He said duty charges on the Tesla imports were reduced from the usual 42 percent to 10 percent.

The all-wheel-drive Model X can travel 257 miles on its 90 kilowatt per hour battery. It features seating for seven in three rows, and accelerates from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds. The third-row seats fold flat and the second-row seats lean forward and out of the way. The Model X is the first EV with a 5,000-pound towing capacity, and comes with gull-wing doors, enabling easy access to the rear seating.

The all-wheel-drive Model S has the highest U.S. safety rating, and accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds.

It has a range of 270 miles on a single charge, a top speed of 155 mph, and digital control of motors, brakes and steering, preventing front or side collisions or wandering off the road. On-board cameras scan for a parking space and automatically direct the car to parallel park.

Mr. Felder said maintenance would be done by a Miami-based certified Tesla technician, who will visit Cayman twice a year or on-call and as needed for any immediate problems.

Local insurers offered “no problem” with writing policies on the vehicles, he said.