Electric buses are to start running on routes throughout Barbados by year-end, Minister of Energy Wilfred Abrahams announced today.
An initial 20 buses are to be ordered by the Ministry of Transport in a phased approach towards an entire all-electric fleet of Government vehicles over the next 11 years, he said.
“The buses will be here by year-end,” he said, suggesting that Government will follow a careful examination of the best buses for use in Barbados’ terrain.
Abrahams said: “We may have to get a certain spec (specification) to run a route like Highway 7 and we may have to get another spec to do Horse Hill. We are not looking to buy 100 buses at one time, as I understand it the [Transport] Minister Duguid is sourcing in the initial stages 20 buses. We will run those and see how it works before we rush in and buy hundreds of buses to replace our fleet. But . . . we are moving to a completely electric fleet not just of buses but Government vehicles as it is our commitment under our 2030 plan and we have to do it.
“Our process involves speaking to the manufacturers and making sure that we are comfortable that they can deliver what we need for the routes that the buses run on before we launch off and spend the Government’s money. We are going to be responsible at every step of this process and we are trying to get them in as soon as possible.”
The Energy Minister said policies were coming to build out battery charging infrastructure, train mechanics and encourage consumers to buy electric vehicles but suggested that these plans might be constrained by the International Monetary Fund-sanctioned austerity programme, known as BERT.
Abrahams said: “Against the base of our solidified programme it would be very hard now to make promises but I have been speaking to [Finance] Minister Straughn [because] I more than anyone else want to see electric vehicles on the road in Barbados and I know that we have to incentivize persons to make that change but it has to be done in the context of what is best for Barbados and our overall country at the moment.
“There is some misconception that people have about electric vehicles; you do not need to charge an electric vehicle every hour or two once you charge it overnight that vehicle is going to work for two days. With the range of electric buses I think that the range that we were [specifying was] over 200 miles for a charge and you can drive around Barbados a couple of times to hit 200 miles.”
The Minister responsible for Energy and Water Resource Management said the Ministry of Education Technology and Vocational Training will seek to train mechanics to maintain and repair electric buses.
“The Ministry of Education is pushing to train persons at the vocational sector. We are trying to incentivise mechanics to take this on as it is going to open a new avenue for electricians in Barbados.
These things are not impediments as they are new possibilities,” Abrahams said.
Abrahams was speaking as he presented prizes at Good Shepherd Primary, whose student Blake Belgrave, seven, won third prize in the energy ministry’s 2018 Energy Month essay and colouring competition.