Are electric cars the wave of the future?
Businessman wants to set up Bermuda dealership based on Cayman model
The Wheego LiFe can travel 100 miles before needing a charge.
Bermuda could develop a network of solar-powered charging stations for electric vehicles.
US entrepreneur John Felder is viewing the island as a destination on which to expand his electric vehicle (EV) dealership. Mr Felder is president and CEO of Cayman Automotive Leasing and Marketing Ltd, which he says is the first authorized dealer of EVs in the Caribbean.The company launched the first EV solar panel charging station in the Caribbean in Grand Cayman in June. The facility, at Governors Square, Georgetown, is the first of 14 planned solar charging points across the Cayman Islands.
Not only do EVs reduce carbon emissions but they save motorists money on filling up their tanks at the gas station. Solar-powered charging stations reduce a vehicle’s carbon footprint to zero. Mr Felder has so far sold four Chevrolet Volt hybrid cars in Grand Cayman and will be importing another four models which are 100 per cent electric — the Wheego LiFe, Tazzari Zero, an EV SUV and a four-door sedan. And he expects to expand to Bermuda — importing all five models here — by the end of the year.
The businessman, originally from Maryland, worked for the Chrysler Group for 25 years before setting up his Cayman automotive dealership. He said he has been working with the Cayman Islands government to progress legislation for electric vehicles.
“For the past six months I’ve been working with the government here to get the law passed, to allow the use of electric cars on the roads,” he said. “It is now expected to be passed in September.” Mr Felder said the Tazzari Zero and Wheego LiFe can reach 100 miles on one charge.
“There has been a lot of interest,” he said. “A lot of people are waiting for these cars, especially as the gas prices here are so high."
“Many people are also sensitive about environmental issues.” He senses a similar receptive public in Bermuda. Mr Felder said he was “impressed” by Premier Paula Cox. “She is very vocal about her intentions to make Bermuda a green island,” he said. “And if you import a green vehicle, there is zero per cent duty. That’s outstanding, and I applaud her for that. It also makes selling cars in Bermuda very marketable.
“Bermuda is small island and the speed limit is 22mph, which is even lower than in Cayman (50mph).
“Bermuda also has similar demographics to Cayman in that 25 to 40 per cent of the population is college-educated and on a decent salary, creating a target market for electric vehicles.”
Mr Felder said he has already identified an agent in Bermuda, but would not reveal his identity other than to say he is “a local individual”. In Grand Cayman the Wheego LiFe and Tazarri Zero will retail for $25-30,000, but Bermuda residents can expect to pay a lot less due to the absence of duty.
“Selling these cars in Bermuda will be cheaper. The duty here (in Cayman) is 21 per cent, so that’s a big difference.” He said he hopes to start importing the Volt, LiFe, Zero, the as yet unnamed electric SUV and EV four-door sedan into Bermuda “before the end of the year”.
The company will also set up a network of solar-powered charging stations to reduce “range anxiety” — the fear of running out of power away from home.
“We will set up charging stations at strategic locations so people will never have to worry about getting a charge when they need it,” said Mr Felder.
“The charging sites will be based on the number of cars sold and the layout of the island. But I would say we’re looking at eight to 10 charging stations in Bermuda.”
“It makes sense to use the one renewable energy source (solar power) which we have in abundance in this region.”