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Electric cars in Grenada

Michael McIntyre, managing director of McIntyre Bros Ltd. and part of a “third-generation automotive industry family” does not expect to see many electric cars in Grenada “during my lifetime.”

“It will happen eventually,” he told The Grenadian Voice, as he reflected on his grandfather “Bertie” McIntyre and the history of the family business that dates back to 1895. Perhaps the electric cars will happen in the lifetime of a fourth-generation, as he proudly notes that his daughter Fiona McIntyre Winsborrow is part of the company.

As major car manufacturers pursue more electric vehicle options for drivers, the Caribbean has been advised to “get started on the Regional Electric Vehicle Strategy.” During a recent virtual meeting convened by the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) and the Energy Unit of the CARICOM Secretariat, more than 250 participants discussed innovation opportunities and the Caribbean reality.

“Stakeholders in the energy and transportation sectors were charged not to wait until a comprehensive plan and perfect conditions are available in order to get started on the Regional Electric Vehicle Strategy,” according to the CCREEE. Calling for regional coordination in developing the strategy, participants identified cost as the most important factor when deciding on an electric vehicle versus an internal combustible engine vehicle purchase.

The Government of Grenada, referring to initiatives that  “protect the environment” in a May 12, 2020 press release, stated it “is finalizing plans” to introduce a ban on the importation of vehicles exceeding 10 years, “while simultaneously implementing a 50% duty and tax concession on the importation of electric and hybrid vehicles.” While the ban went into effect July 1, Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Hon Oliver Joseph told The Grenadian Voice that the duty and tax concession “is not yet published.”

He said government will “wait and see if there is a demand” for electric and hybrid vehicles.

While there are approximately a dozen electric vehicles in Grenada, consumer demand is minimal.

Other than the occasional inquiry from a curious potential customer purchasing a new vehicle, electric vehicles have yet to become a priority for Grenadian drivers.

“We get a few requests, but not a significant amount that would justify any imports,” Ashley Jerome, marketing manager at Huggins Automotive Division, said, adding that “they would need charging stations.”

Minister Joseph indicated charging stations should be provided by the private sector.

Among the first electric vehicles in Grenada were those brought in by the Grenada Electricity Company Ltd. (GRENLEC) in 2015 as part of its Electric Vehicle Pilot Project, with two passenger cars and one five-seater van. The project revealed that over a one-year period, the three vehicles averaged the equivalent of 97 miles per gallon and a 39% reduction in fuel costs compared to their combustion engine counterparts with similar usage.

The project showed that electric vehicles are “more efficient in terms of operating costs, maintenance and performance, “Clive Hosten, chief engineer at GRENLEC, told this newspaper.

While there was significant public interest in the cars at the time, “we did not see there was a lot of pick-up,” according to another GRENLEC official.

There have been some moves to prepare the region for electric vehicles. In 2016, GRENLEC collaborated with GIZ REETA, CARICOM and Megapower Barbados to organise a one-week seminar, at which three GRENLEC employees and an instructor from the T.A. Marryshow Community College were among 14 mechanics from eight Caribbean countries trained in electric vehicle repair and replacement.

In Barbados, there are approximately 350 electric vehicles, and Hosten said a driver does not have to travel more than five kilometres between charging stations.

Speakers at the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency virtual conference agreed that public-private partnerships, particularly in the installation of charging infrastructure, and regulator-utility collaboration for the development of attractive charging prices for consumers are key to supporting the adoption of electric vehicles. Panelist Xavier Gordon warned there is a need to produce economies of scale in the region, which could, in turn, further reduce costs for CARICOM member states and consumers; including procurement costs.  

Antonio Sealy of the Barbados Light and Power Company Limited revealed that when the Electric Bus Project commenced in Barbados, they began to receive significant interest from global electric service providers.

As for the future of electric cars in Grenada, the chief engineer of GRENLEC said he looks forward “to more policy direction from government.”

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