Without trying too hard, straining sinews and straining brains, Barbados, the little island nation that could, did. It has become third highest per capita user of electric vehicles.
The major car companies of the world – GM, Ford, BMW, Nissan, Kia, Toyota – are involved in producing all-plug-in or plug-in hybrid motors, challenged by the comparatively tiny but disruptive Tesla, driven by the irascible, irreverent and irrepressible Elon Musk.
And with merely one make, model and dealer, this nation is already the third highest user of electric vehicles per 1000 people.
With roughly one third of total energy use for transport, any effort towards meeting the Government’s goal of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030 – a mere 11 years from now – will require more than haphazard attention to replacing the diesel and gasoline internal combustion engine with an electric moto.
We note that the Minister for Energy Wilfred Abrahams has indicated the Government’s plan to convert to higher levels of vehicles fuelled by renewable energy as well as hybrid-electric and fully electric vehicles.
The Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance was developing a hybrid/electric bus programme which, Abrahams said, would play a key role in the evolution to electric and other clean fuel vehicles.
We are heartened by the Government’s purchase of over eight electric vehicles, and with a few incentives towards a fledgling electric vehicle sector, we have shot ahead of nearly 200 countries into the world with 390 privately owned pure electric vehicles, and counting.
While the Government has committed itself to assure the audience that Government was determine to achieve its 2030 vision, it is time the people are presented with a Marshall Plan for providing electric vehicle access that is affordable and sustainable.
There needs to be a build-out of the charging infrastructure across the nation. This, in particular, could become one of the major capital works projects for a nation struggling to find its feet. More makes and models need to be introduced. More of our mechanics need to ramp up their knowledge on the electric drivetrain and battery systems.
Many more than eight vehicles need to be in Government service. And that bus plan? Bring it. The travelling public had put up long enough with delays and disdain, while buses languish like blue and golden sepulchres.
Barbados has no better example than oil-producing Norway; a nation where there is no such impetus to abandon fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, has gone against expectations and become the world leader in plug-in electric vehicle use.
And if there be any doubt that this little nation is incapable of higher attainment in the march towards a green economy, may we remind you that merely 40 years ago, a similar single product threatened to replace the humble but hungry water heater. With a raft of public policy changes – tax breaks, access to lower-interest loans and allowing the private sector to drive an industry unencumbered, Barbados has become a world nation, at least in intent.
Now, with the need for greater foreign exchange inflows, and more savings of scarce reserves, the need to adapt the transport industry for solar power has taken on the fierce urgency of now.