Above: the first ever public, commercial solar car charging station in Cayman (Photo: Cayman Automotive)
By Alexander Britell
It may be the Caribbean’s most abundant resource, but in a region where energy costs are oppressive, solar energy isn’t used nearly enough.
That’s starting to change, though, and it got a significant boost last week with the opening of the Caribbean’s first-ever solar-powered car charging station.
The station is viewed to be one of the first standalone, public solar car-charging stations in the Caribbean, a place for electric-powered cars to come and top off their energy supplies.
“We started about a year ago and now it’s finally up and operational,” said John Felder, CEO of Cayman Automotive, which partnered with Philadelphia-based U-Go Stations on the project. “I don’t know of any solar panel charge stations for electric cars.”
While the stations won’t be used for complete charges, an hour spent charging at the station will provide about 20 percent of an electric car’s power supply.
Felder, who is the leading distributor of electric cars in the Caribbean, said the region’s electric car movement was already expanding.
“I’m now in the Bahamas, in Jamaica, in Bermuda,” he said. “The Aruban government called me last week and they want me to move to start doing electric cars there.”
Indeed, Aruba has been at the forefront of the regional green energy movement, with plans to have 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2020.
Barbados opened its first solar car-charging station in 2013 at the Wildey Business Park.
The new Cayman station, which is located at Governors Square, is one of six electric charging stations on the island.
“I can see in the next 10 years that 30 to 40 percent of the cars on the roads will be electric vehicles,” Felder said.
Something that could help that measure regional is the lowering of import duties on 100 percent electric cars, Felder said.
Cayman’s government lowered its duty from 42 percent to 10 percent, which is now the third-lowest in the region, although many islands lag behind in that regard.
“The government is promoting [electric] and that’s why they reduced the duty to 10 percent,” he said.
The electric movement on Cayman got an similarly big boost earlier this year when Grand Cayman’s Budget Rent-a-Car announced plans to offer 100 percent EV vehicles on the island.