Cayman on the cutting edge of green movement

Recent surges in fuel prices have been hurting everyone’s wallets, none more so than the Cayman car driver. Hikes in gas prices see the average Cayman driver spending anywhere from CI$50 to CI$200 per month on gas, an expense we could all do without. So imagine spending around five cents a day to drive your car. Sounds impossible? Cayman Automotive have the answer. Business Editor, Lindsey Turnbull reports.

US-based Global Electric Motorcars have been making electric cars in the States for over 10 years but only now have these models finally wound their way to the Cayman Islands.

John Felder, President and CEO of Cayman Automotive is a veteran of the US automobile business, having worked for Chrysler in Maryland for 19 years as their district manager before coming to Cayman five years ago. He has been the key proponent of electric cars in Cayman for a number of months and has now finally imported the first of what hopefully will be the beginning of a new era in the transportation industry in Grand Cayman.

Felder says, “The price of gas and its reliance on unsustainable fuel such as oil has galvanised North America to start thinking about alternative energy when it comes to fueling its vehicles. Global Electric Motorcars has designed six models which rely purely on battery-electric engines and they have suddenly become incredibly popular right across the United States. We are therefore extremely excited about being able to give Cayman residents the same opportunities for going green as our neighbours in the US have had for a while now.”

The GEM vehicles operate on a 72-volt battery system which delivers speeds of just 25mph and a range of about 30 miles. They plug into a standard 110-volt outlet and recharge in approximately six to eight hours (so overnight would be a logical time to charge up the battery).

In the US these cars are classified as low-speed vehicles and are street legal on public roads posted at 35 mph or less. Felder explains that the cars have met all the necessary safety rules in the US, as well as having been thoroughly tested at the Chrysler Automotive Proving grounds for quality and endurance.

All vehicles are made from a lightweight yet durable aluminium chassis and have independent front suspension systems as well as front-wheel disc and rear-wheel hydraulic braking systems. They are equipped with standard automotive safety glass, three-point seat belts, halogen headlamps, adjustable mirrors etc and Felder says that the cars drive exactly the same as a regular gas-run car.

He states, “I had the opportunity to test drive all the GEM vehicles a couple of months ago at the local GEM dealership who will be handling our imports for us and I was impressed with what I saw. It’s a lightweight car which handles very well and operates very similarly to that of a regular car.”

Working in tandem with government to ensure that the infrastructure is properly developed in Cayman to accommodate such vehicles, Felder says that he hopes that government will designate similar “green” zones for the electric cars similar to that in the U.S. today. These, as in the States, will be roads designated at 35mph or less as a maximum speed.”

Felder has also been working with CUC Utilities Ltd, Cayman’s sole electricity provider, to develop charge stations at strategic stops around the three islands. Charge stations at such entities as Camana Bay would offer motorists a specially designated charge station whereby drivers could simply swipe their credit or debit cards and receive electricity. Felder confirms that a high-speed charge unit is available which will drastically reduce the number of hours required to fully charge the battery, although he says this will cost slightly more than the regular six to eight hours charge, which works out at about five cents a charge.

Felder says he is bringing a four and six seater model to the Cayman Islands, which will perfectly suit a wide range of customers.

Felder says, “These cars are ideally suited to mums taking the kids to school and back or popping to the grocery store, or perhaps George Town workers whose only drive for the day is the commute back and forth to work. The larger models are well designed for hotels doing the airport run and back.”

He also says that these types of cars would be perfectly suited to the Sister Islands where the slow pace of life could be greatly enhanced by electric cars. In fact, he does not see any reason why Little Cayman could not go completely green when it comes to automobiles.

In an exclusive preview of the models on offer, a selection of press and other VIPs were given the opportunity to test drive the cars for the very first time in Caribbean, let alone in the Cayman Islands.


Joey Ebanks and John Felder
Sonita Malan