Regional officials are on a mission to expand the electric vehicle sector in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in the coming months.
Following a three-day electric mobility seminar and exhibition to raise more awareness of the sector, Head of the Energy Unit at the CARICOM Secretariat Devon Gardner said regional governments were serious about the new technology.
More than 60 representatives from 16 countries participated in the workshop. The last regional workshop of this kind was held in 2015.
“We had to turn away some people who wanted to come,” said Gardner, adding “we have achieved the framework for the roadmap design which we had set out to do and more”.
Gardner said in the coming months the Secretariat would be working with countries to help them to understand and develop the best framework for expansion of the sector, be it the regulations, financing mechanisms, infrastructure or capacity to service the electric vehicles.
He reported that the conference identified some barriers to greater electric vehicle implementation in the region. One of the main ones, he said, was the cost of acquiring the vehicles.
However, pointing out that savings would come in maintenance over the life cycle of the vehicles, which could cost from as little as $40,000 to more than $380,000, Gardner said some innovative ideas were explored.
One of the projects being examined, he said, could include an agreement between electric vehicle owners and power companies in the various jurisdictions to use the battery as storage once it is not in use.
This, he said, would allow car owners to contribute to the national grid and receive a payment from the utility company.
“So you buy the vehicle through . . . a vehicle loan type or lease financing kind of arrangement and then the payments could be offset by the fees that you are paid for the vehicle through grid services. That is one of the things that have emerged and we are [considering] if that is potentially implementable,” Gardner said.
Insisting that the majority of Caribbean people should benefit from the technology, Gardner said the Secretariat will help countries develop the necessary roadmap to help facilitate the growth of the sector.
“We intend to use the results of the workshop and the expo to help us develop a very detailed and practical roadmap to support and orientate how the countries will go about implementing electric mobility in their own jurisdictions as well as to develop a number of those projects we have identified,” he said.
Without giving away too much, Gardner said organizers were able to identify “some flagship projects” to be implemented as part of that roadmap while pointing out that affordability was crucial.
“Some very innovative projects . . . look at the potential for electric vehicle factoring and perhaps assembly, utilizing some of those countries that have renewable energy power opportunities and options,” he added.
He said officials were also examining the possibility of developing mobile apps to help electric vehicle owners locate charging stations across the country.
There are currently about 300 electric vehicles being driven and over 50 public charging points in Barbados.
Gardner lauded the private sector for taking the lead in the use of electric vehicles, adding that Government should also be commended for its role in “always recognizing that clean energy is an important part of the sustainability of the country”.
“We know there has always been in the region, diverse but very widespread interest in electric mobility and other types of technologies that make us more efficient and cleaner in the way we provide and use energy and we believe that the Secretariat is well placed to help guide some of those discussions [and] to coordinate and manage some of the strategy designs,” Gardner said.
On the downside, he said there were a number of “perception issues” that still had to be tested, including the impact of water on the battery technology in areas that are frequently flooded.
“We want to run tests and understand what those things could be, especially in countries like Guyana and Suriname due to what we could call inundation from the sea [as] some of the flooding is from sea water. So we are now introducing salt . . . but other than that, many of the downsides are just perceptions,” he said.
Managing Director of Megapower Simon Richards told Barbados TODAY the electric vehicle industry had the potential to save the country valuable foreign exchange and contribute to a cleaner environment and should, therefore, be capitalized on.
Expressing satisfaction that the industry was growing, Richards said since setting up shop in 2013 “the response has been phenomenal”.
During the expo held at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex last Friday, scores of residents had the opportunity to learn about the more than 30 electric or hybrid vehicles on display, as well as other renewable energy and recyclable items.
Consultant with the CARICOM Energy Unit/GIZ Ginelle Greene-Dewasmes said as far as she was concerned, the transportation sector was an area that all governments in the region should seek to enhance through the use of more electric vehicles.
“Looking at the economic situation, transportation is one of the heaviest users of fossil fuel which is a heavy burden on our economies [and creates] a fiscal burden for our governments,” she said.
The transportation sector in Barbados uses about 3,500 barrels of oil per day accounting for just over 30 per cent of the country’s fuel import bill.
Greene-Dewasmes suggested that the monies spent on fossil fuels could be used to fund other areas of development, such as health care or education.
“Electric transport is a move towards more sustainable living that saves us foreign exchange which is very important [in] getting a healthier economy,” she said, adding that as the technology advanced so too were the financing options, making it easier for the average household to afford an electric vehicle.
“Right now, about four banks in Barbados . . . have financing options for electric vehicles and other types of sustainable technology. So it is about finding out [about] the options,” she said.
Officials are expecting that with the growing demand, the electric mobility seminar and exhibition could become a yearly event. email@example.com.