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TECH TIMES: Driven towards an electric future

The Caribbean is becoming a location where new technologies are widely trialled or developed and the Cayman Islands is amongst those innovative places with its emerging electric car industry.

Known as EVs, several companies in the Caribbean are beginning to import these cars and vans for general use.

Cayman Automotive recently announced that they had received a first order for electric cars for use on Cayo Largo, the tourist island off Cuba’s south coast about 50 miles south of Havana, that is being developed as a fully eco-friendly tourist destination. The five to ten vehicle initial shipment is intended to service the destination’s seven hotels which are linked by a single paved road.

According to the company, if the test order proves successful, further vehicles are likely to be supplied to three neighbouring Cuban islands and eventually nationwide. The vehicles, which can travel at a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour, have been purchased by Transtur with the related charging stations being purchased separately.

In Cayman itself, EVs are also available for rental alongside hybrids and other vehicles from Budget-Rent-A-Car which has shown an interest in marketing an emissions-free choice that they promote to visitors as helping to protect the islands natural environment. Electric cars are doing a brisk trade on ecay online. When electric sports cars eventually arrive here, like to models already available in India, the market is likely to grow. Futuristic sports cars are already on display at car shows so it’s only a matter of time that they will be zooming along the coastal roads here.

Most vehicles presently available in the Caribbean have a range of around 100 miles making the development of recharging points essential. This ideally requires the development of solar panel recharging centres, costs to fall, and solar to be incentivised and encouraged.

However, the biggest obstacle to developing a greener presence are very high import duties on EVs and related equipment and governments’ reluctance to show the leadership or vision that would enable tourism dependent nations in the Eastern Caribbean to capture internationally media attention and visitor imagination.

Hoteliers in one way or another are anxious to establish their green credentials to demonstrate to clients that not only are their properties eco-friendly but also they are actively engaged in improving the Caribbean environment. In this context many larger Caribbean properties have been using for some years now variations on electric golf carts to move clients, bags, staff, and catering around their properties.

Cayman is at the forefront of the electric car industry thanks to a government that plans to convert at least 10 percent of its fleet to electric vehicles over the next five years, according to Infrastructure Minister Joey Hew.

Mr Hew, speaking at the Caribbean Transitional Energy Conference in Grand Cayman last September, said the government was doing its part to meet commitments outlined in a 2017 National Energy Policy.

That document set the ambitious target that 70 percent of the electricity generated on the islands should be derived from renewable sources within the next 20 years. Currently Cayman gets less than five percent of its energy from renewables.

James Whittaker, president of the Cayman Renewable Energy Association and one of the speakers at the conference, welcomed government’s commitment, but said it would need to “act aggressively” on renewables in the coming years to meet that target.

Mr Hew said greener vehicles was one of several initiatives government is planning to aid the conversion to cleaner energy sources. The government’s policy is working. For example, Cayman has electric car charging stations located all around Grand Cayman, which are free.

Those without electric vehicles can also benefit from Refuel gas station, Cayman’s first provider of modern, environmentally-friendly fuel. The facility stocks five grades of fuels including three grades of E10 (10 percent ethanol), B5 (5 percent biodiesel) and B20 (20 percent biodiesel). Ethanol and biodiesel have higher octane and cetane ratings than petrol and diesel alone and lower emissions than other boosters. These modern fuels don’t produce as many damaging exhaust emissions and reduce lifecycle CO2 emissions. Although some CO2 is produced as a by-product, the plants grown to create the fuel absorb carbon dioxide meaning that the net carbon emissions is much lower than fuels such as petrol. Most of the fuel in the US and UK contain ethanol in its petrol and biodiesel in its diesel in an effort to reduce emissions, but Refuel is the first petrol station to market it in Cayman. The station is located opposite the airport post office in George Town and plans for a second station are already in place.

Electric vehicles are now a common sight on Cayman’s roads but to buy or import an electric car there are some restrictions. LSVs (Low Speed Vehicles) which only attain a top speed of 25mph do not have the appropriate amount of power to be allowed on all roads and will have to stick to certain zones, where the speed limit does not exceed 30mph. However, larger and faster ‘Highway Speed’ electric vehicles which have a top speed of 150mph, depending on the make and model, can be licensed to drive on all local roads in Cayman. These vehicles can be driven for 100 miles on a single charge and it is estimated that, at current CUC rates this will cost a total of $3 per charge.

There are several operational electric vehicle charging stations around Cayman and more new stations are under construction or proposed.

Import duty on electric and hybrid vehicles is considerably less than charged for regular gas and diesel vehicles. Electric cars attract a flat 10 percent duty fee and the duty on hybrid vehicles is 15 percent. A savings up to 32 percent on certain priced vehicles.


Electric car charging stations (free to use)

• Motor Museum - West Bay

• Governor’s Square - SMB (solar powered)

• Camana Bay (2 locations) - SMB

• Crighton Properties - Crewe Road

• Cayman Automotive - Grand Harbour

• Kaibo Beach Bar - North Side

• Grand Harbour Shopping Centre - George Town

• Cricket Square - George Town

• Hell - West Bay

• Wyndham Reef Resort - East End

• Barcam Esso Gas Station - East - West Arterial Road

• The Westin Grand Cayman Beach Resort & Spa - SMB

• Lorna's Rubis Gas Station - Bodden Town

• A.L. Thompson's Home Store - George Town

• All Foster's Food Fair Supermarkets

• Sunshine Suites Resort - SMB

• Kimpton Hotel and Dragon Bay (2 locations) - SMB


Car dealers

The Electric Car Company
993 Crewe Road, George Town
Tel: 916-7332
They are leasing electric cars so that you can try them out and make sure it will work for you.

Cayman Automotive
1053 Crewe Rd, Unit C9. Grand Harbour, PO Box 12036.
Tel: 749 0900.
Cayman Automotive leases vehicles and also sells electric and hybrid vehicles in Cayman.

CARS Ltd. (Campbell’s Auto)
P.O. Box 2102, Grand Cayman KY1-1105, North Sound Way, Grand Cayman.
Tel: 949-7135.
Sells a selection of electric and hybrid cars imported from the US and Japan. As well as affordable second-hand vehicles

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