Electric hybrid beats law

| 07/03/2011

(CNS): The first electric car which is legally allowed on the country’s roads was handed over to its new owners, CUC, on Friday. The Chevy Volt, which has a generator to recharge the batteries that drive the car, is a unique hybrid that has escaped the Cayman Islands’ law, which normally prohibits electric cars, because of this engine. John Felder of Cayman Automotive realized part of his dream on Friday at a special ceremony at the vehicle licensing office, but while the Volt was licensed by the authorities, the Zenn, which is a purely electric vehicle, is still not legally allowed on the roads. However, the chief officer in the ministry promised the law would be changed by May to facilitate all types of electric cars. (Photos Dennie Warren Jr)

Felder has been trying to bring electric cars to Cayman for many years, following Sonny Ryan, who brought the first electric car to Little Cayman in 2004 but who died before he was allowed to use it on the road.

“I couldn’t sleep last night, I was so excited,” Felder said as the car was unveiled. “But I’m not doing it for me I’m doing it for the people of the Cayman Islands,” he added, as he described the long road to getting the car to Cayman.

The Chevy Volt smart car is at least a step in the right direction, Felder said after the ceremony in which he announced that Cayman Automotive would be establishing a scholarship in honour of Sonny Ryan for young people who want to study modern auto-mechanics. “The industry is changing and we need young people who will be able to repair and maintain this kind of vehicle,” he said.

The car, which is highly sought after and has a waiting list in the US of over 200,000 drivers, can be plugged in at home and has a range of over 35 miles before the generator has to recharge the batteries. When running on gas the car gets the equivalent of around 90 miles per gallon, which is believed to be highest ever for a car made in North America.

As the stylish vehicle was unveiled, the premier, who drove it to the inspection pit, said he would talk with his Cabinet colleagues to see if the duty on the car could be reduce by 10% as cars in its class currently have a duty of around 40% on them. Although a welcome gesture, with so many people on the waiting list it will be some time before anyone other than CUC employees will be enjoying the pleasure of this green and silent vehicle.

Felder has not given up on his goal to bring in fully electric cars that have no combustion engines and use no gas, which Kearney Gomez said will be legal by June. Once these cars (a fraction of the cost of a Volt) are allowed on the roads, Felder said he would be pursuing the goal have having solar powered charging stations on the island offering a truly green alternative to drivers. These cars are also expected to have a greater reduction in duty as they are considered fully green items.

Gomez said that there had been a lot of complex changes to the traffic law, which was why it had been a long time coming. “We are very, very close to finishing this comprehensive piece of legislation and it will make it to the Legislative Assembly before June,” Gomez promised.

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  1. Caymanite says:

    Having electric carsand alternative energy sources to charge them may soon become vital when oil runs down and fuel prices skyrocket.  We won’t have to be completely out of oil before the cost of fuel is so high that it shuts down (first the ridiculous plan for an oil refinery) air arrivals, the tourism economy, and eventually shipping.  We will become a ghost town when oil runs down and long before it runs completely dry.  I suspect this will happen much sooner for Cayman and other islands than for the rest of the world because of our dependence on air arrivals and tourism.  Very little food is produced here and our reefs are near empty. Oil production has already peaked and we’re already on the slippery backside slope.  Big price spikes are soon-come.  That’s when we’ll wish we had not over-fished our reefs for the past 60 years and that we’ll wish we had created more incentives for local farmers. 

    It is not too early, but may soon be too late to put in place big incentives for alternative energy sources and electric cars.  Our electricity infrastructure must shift to the rooftop of every building with solar and wind power, private and corporate.  There is also a great design available for generating large scale power from temperature differentials in the sea that is practical and doable here.  A free byproduct of this devise is fresh, drinkable water.  Buy that instead of an oil refinery!  We don’t want to spend all of our money buying ever more expensive fuel in the coming years instead of spending that money on ways to produce alternative energy and electric vehicles.  We need farm, fish and energy incentives now: not as a too-late, knee jerk response to the inevitable energy hikes and subsequent crash that are already written on the wall.

    Please create real import duty incentives for everything that creates green energy and that moves without gasoline!  How about 10% for all-electric cars instead of the current 40%?  How about 10% for solar and wind equipment, storage batteries, etc…?  Get serious now!  Let’s get off the Arab nipple ASAP before they bleed us dry!

  2. John Felder says:

    Thanks to everyone for your kind words of congratulation. I would also like to add that my next mission will be unveiled soon as the first network of solar panel charge stations for electric vehicles will be introduced. The timing is right as CUC recently announced major changes for consumers utilizing this technology.

    John C. Felder


  3. Anonymous says:

    We have been hearing for years that the law is going to be changed and it is yet to happen and now we have yet another promise from the government.  These small islands are ideally suited for electric cars.

    The government is just one big disappointment after another.

  4. Marek says:

    My NEV has been sitting in the garage for almost a year now. Interestingly, when I imported it I was charged duty and fee’s the same as a ‘motor vehicle’.

    This is absolutely a step in the right direction. I am awaiting the new changed with baited breath.


  5. Libertarian says:

    ***** Ha… it is nice that he is putting down import duty to allow the easy sale of this car. BUT IT WOULD EVEN BE BETTER IF HE PUTS DOWN DUTY ON EVERYTHING ELSE AND SPARE US FROM A HIGH COST OF LIVING!!! ***** M.R.

  6. Wiggy says:

    Bah…I’ll stick with my gas devouring 1988 GMC 3/4 Ton pickup thank you very much.

    It gets me from A to B, it’s reliable, and frankly I like my chances in my truck compared to some Toyota Starlet or Hyundai Atos if I were to get in an accident. Too many bad drivers & street racers in Cayman. Bound to happen sometime.

    My truck is the greenest vehicle in Cayman!

    (Really, it’s painted Green).

  7. Anonymous says:

    That’s right…it takes electricity to charge the car. Why wouldn’t CUC try to pave the way with Electric Cars. Bet they would love it if we were plugging our cars in every night. They’ll be pushing the GO GREEN while they put more Oil powered Generators on line.

  8. Gringo says:

    And Cayman leaps into the 1990’s by finally allow one electric car to grace the streets of the nation!

    A bit late to the party, but I suppose it’s a step in the right direction.

    That being said, give me Little Cayman any day. No need for cars – just buy a bike.

  9. elaine says:

    what has happend to the caymans???? all of the crime ,im kinda glad i sold my place on seven mile beach .I dont t hink I will bring my sisters kids anymore .I know there has to be change .But this is the wrong kinda of change.Im just happy I had the chance to live and visit before it got this way

  10. Anonymous says:

    Open Letter to the Premier re: Electric/Hybrid vehicles

    Mr. Premier,

    For the benefit of the future of Cayman, import duty for hybrid vehicles should be at a rate that encourages people to import/use them. Please push this change in the law through.

    At the same time, as long as a purely electric vehicle is certified as road safe by an US/UK/Canada or similar government agency it should be allowed on our roads here. Please amend this at the same time.

    Thank you.

    • Libertarian says:

      ***** My friend, import duties for hybrid vehicles and everything else should be at a rate that encourages people to import them, lowerthe cost of goods andservices everywhere on the island, so that there will be less unemployment and small businesses allowed to grow. That is the overall big picture ***** M.R.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Moving in the right direction, let’s go all the way’ with all electric cars running on electricity produced by wind power. opps I forgotwe cannot get free wind power because we cannot get wind turbines because of the doppler radar system we are putting in. Stupid me, I am putting aside money now to pay my $1,000.00 CUC bill that I expect to get this summer.

    • Anonymous says:

      How about buying a personal windmill for your home that charges your electric car.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Okay, so you don’t have to pay for petrol now. But how much is it going to cost to ‘re-charge’ up your car???

    If CUC prices keep rising, there’s no point in getting electric car because you need ELECTRICITY to run the thing!

    Good idea in theory, but CUC is just too expensive to justify an electric car.



  13. Anonymous says:

    Hold on…….lets give them some thought everyone:

    Electric vehicles are only as "green" as the source of generating electricity.  While electric vehicles have zero "tailpipe" emissions, CUC generates electricity through the burning of diesel.

    The amount of carbon dioxide emitted in this equation depends on the emission intensity of the power source used to charge the vehicle, the efficiency of the vehicle and the energy wasted in the charging process.

    On balance, using an electric vehicle powered with electricity generated by turbines powered by the burning of diesel is a NET CONTRIBUTOR of carbon dioxide relative to a gasoline-powered engine, and is LESS energy efficient than a good old internal combustion engine.  

    Obviously, CUC has a self-interest in encouraging greater electricity consumption.   So while an electric car is "cool" and "neat" and the latest thing, a driver of such car in Cayman is actually contributing greater carbon to the atmosphere than a gas powered engine.   

    • Free Solar Power for All.... says:

       Look up.  Watch out for a big orange ball up there.  It gives off something called sunlight, which lands on Cayman in abundance.  There’s also a technology that turns that free, healthy sunshine into… wait for it… ELECTRICITY.

      Modern science… ain’t it wonderful?

    • QueQ says:

      Absolutely agree, 100%. The electric vehicle in Cayman is NOT ‘green’ while we are relying on CUC being the power source. It’s a simple fact.

  14. Rorschach says:

     How ironic…the first ELECTRIC car allowed in Cayman and it goes to…..CUC….

  15. Anonymous says:

    Interesting to note from the article that electric cars with no combustion engines will be a fraction of the cost of the Volt acquired by CUC.  It appears that CUC doesn’t care how much it spends in "expenses" since these are all passed on to the general public electricity consumers.  After all, CUC still has to make its guaranteed profit margin.  Also, why is the Premier driving the car to the inspection pit?  He’s been dragging his feet in getting the laws changed.

  16. Freedom Man says:

    Its About Time!  Now if I could only afford one

  17. Anonymous says:

    Excellent news!

  18. Len Layman says:

    I would like to thank Mr. Felder for his efforts.

    I would like to shame Government for not facing reality and changing the laws sooner  Why continue waiting.

    It should be done NOW.

  19. Michael says:

    Well done John.  It’s great to see you push this through, to the benefit of everyone on the Islands.  Let’s hope the Legislative Assembly gets its legislation the rest of the way and brings in laws to support the wholly-electric versions of modern transportation.

    Very, very well done!