Caribbean Islands Charge Up Electric Car Revolution

JUL 27 2018 BY VANJA KLJAIC 21

Solar panels are converting Caribbean rays into power for the grid, charging electric cars and buses

For the Caribbean, the abundance of sunshine throughout the year means a solid starting point for an electric car revolution. After all, the economy of solar power alone is a big tipping point for a lot of new EV owners and the sunshine abundant island nations are no exception. On a worldwide scale, the number of electric vehicles topped 3 million units in 2017 – according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Additionally, they predict that by 2030, over 125 million electric vehicles will be in service. The same uptake is expected in the Caribbean.

One of the pioneers of electric vehicles in Barbados and all of the Caribbean are Joanna Edghill and her husband. After starting their company Megapower some five years ago, they have sold 300 electric vehicles and set up 50 charging stations, joined by a handful of solar car-ports on the 21 mile-long (34 km) Caribbean island of Barbados. Now, they are expanding all across the islands comprising the Greater and Lesser Antilles, offering their electric vehicles to a wide variety of customers.

“The main factor with islands is we don’t have range anxiety. I can develop and roll out a charging network in Barbados where customers are never more than a few kilometers from a charging point,” said Edghill, who previously worked in international development. We have at least 220 days of pure sunlight every year, so why not take advantage of the resources that we do have here?”

For Barbados, the primary users of the left-hand-drive electric cars and delivery vans Megapower imports from Britain are found within the business sector. With the island’s electricity utility, various government departments and private firms comprising the majority of the EV adopters in the small Caribbean island. One of their biggest customers is the Barbados arm of courier giant DHL and the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, for whom Megapower has built solar carports and various charging points.

Their solar power panels also feed into the grid, helping offset the equivalent of the non-renewable power used by 400 electric cars. Furthermore, Barbados is planning on importing more electric buses and electric vehicles for the public transportation and government, further fueling the adoption rates for private users.

“The Caribbean is ripe for the electrification of transportation,” said Curtis Boodoo, assistant professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago who also works on electric vehicles with the CARICOM regional group of 15 countries. “If you invest in electric vehicles, you are able to use your existing electrical infrastructure, and save the costs of the transportation fuel that you have to import.”

The race towards full energy independence is closely tied with the introduction of renewable energy sources. This is mostly fueled by costly dependence on imported fuel for energy, its rather volatile price and the dependence on foreign trades, shipping and other, out of reach items for the small island nations. Just last year, Barbados spent $300 million on fuel imports, according to government data.

While the islands face certain barriers such as high setup costs, stiff import duties on electric vehicles and a clear lack of regulatory support, the room for electric vehicles in Barbados (and other Caribbean nations) is clearly there. And with help from the local authorities, the prices of EVs going down, the ecological aspect and perfect usage conditions, might mean we see a lot of these islands fully electrified in the forthcoming years.

Source: Reuters

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21 Comments on "Caribbean Islands Charge Up Electric Car Revolution"

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Islands are ready for evs. Fossil fuels must be imported, thus raising the price to drive to astronomical levels.
The natural and effective solution is to go wind and solar to produce electricity for evs.

Exactly. Not trying to attract “green” tourists. Islands that: “spent $300 million on fuel imports” are ripe for PV/Wind/Battery. One reason Puerto Rico may not go fully this way, is they pull in containerized LNG for about 38% of need. Of course, centralized generation isn’t helping get away from all those (downed) wires.

Absolutely!! My wife and I love the Caribbean and try to get somewhere down there once a year. There is even talk of possibly retiring there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said- “An electric would be perfect here!!”

Unfortunately, many of the islands have high import taxes and new car sales are very expensive, so few buy new cars. New car sales are tiny, so the manufacturers don’t want to import much, particularly a car that would be very expensive. Imports of used cars is much more common and used Leafs probably aren’t the best choice. Maybe used Spark EVs?

Anyhow, hope the governments there do what they can to make adoption of new EVs easier and more palatable, because they really would be fantastic and I think quite popular once the prices came down.

Probably depends on the size of the island, but I suspect that for many of them even 80 miles would be plenty. Also consider PHEVs that have decent range too.

Missing from this revolution are the larger islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Jamaica and Cuba where concerns of range anxiety still exist since journeys of over 200 miles (return) are possible and no public charging infrastructure exists to date.

I can speak for Jamaica where, despite any real incentives from the government, ten Nissan EVs have been imported, with three of them either still in the hands of dealers or not yet registered. I am taking a huge leap of faith in trying to acquire one of the unsold units since, I am going to be restricted to a radius of about fifty miles until public chargers are put in. The way I see it, if everybody waits for public chargers to be set up while the people who would set up public chargers are waiting for a critical mass of EVs to exist, nothing will ever happen!

What would it take to install some infrastructure for charging?

If you mean in terms of the grid, a 69kV/138kV transmission grid covers most of the island and many major towns have a substation connected to the 69/138 kV network within 10 miles of the town center. The substations send out 13 kV or 24 kV distribution feeders so I don’t think it’s an infrastructure problem. The problem is, no one wants to invest in chargers that are going to sit idle 99.9% of the time so ten BEVs and a sprinkling of PHEVs ain’t gonna cut it.

I did mention to the president of the gasoline retailers association at an expo the association put on, that EVs were coming and that it might be an idea to try and fit some EV charging into their businesses but, I also pointed out that it wouldn’t be a simple matter of just replacing some gas pumps with EV chargers. He did like the idea of having a captive customer for their ubiquitous convenience stores while EV drivers waited fifteen minutes or more for their vehicle to charge!

You should be talking to restaurants. Most of them have very HIGH electrical connections. As such, they are ideal for adding some level 2 connectors to. And obviously sticking around for a meal is good for the restaurant.

On the other hand, 220V/30A EVSEs probably aren’t all that expensive to install if there is enough electrical service, and for most EV drivers that is probably plenty.

I have been amazed that American Territories have not said no to ICE vehicles and pushed SOLELY for EVs. Importing oil/gas/diesel is a HUGE burden to the islands, esp with variable pricing.

Add solar, wind, geo-thermal, and small nukes, and the islands would not only be fairly self sufficient, but able to better deal with disaster.
In fact, before PR was nailed in the disaster, I always thought that they should approach Solar City and push to get solar panel production in the island. That would sell all over the Caribbean and then onto the main land.

Concur all…but the nucs as they are stupid expensive to build, operate, hold spent fuel and retire, resulting in very (very) high $/Kwh.

Large 3G nukes ARE expensive. 4G SMRs are not and multiple of them are Fail-Safe.

With so much sun in Jamaica,it would make sense for solar. EVs are expensive every where,so It will take time for affordable ones to come out. But it would be great if Jamaica did not rely on foreign energy. The sun can make the Carribean rich.

But still seems to miss the point of how the grid reacts to balance demand for 12 hours of darkness? Perhaps use the cars & vans not driving around at night. Oh that’s when they work having charged during the day?

Rooftop solar combined with home energy storage (for example Tesla Powerwall) is prefectly suited for island nations and is cost feasible already, due to sky high electricity costs. Also grid level renewables + energy storage (think Tesla Powerpack) to power those who dont live in single-family dwellings (apartment/condo buildings) as well as office towers. Commerical/industrial and agricultural buildings, tourism, etc can install their own rooftop solar + energy storage.

The islands also often have pretty steady wind resources, so a couple turbines can help supplement solar + battery.

Why is it not common knowledge that charging stations are not needed for EVs. Everywhere there is an outlet there is a place to charge. They outlets don’t even have to be outside. A drop cord (extension cord) can help reach if needed. The only limit is the voltage with respect to time. Some islands use 220v, so Level 1 isn’t even a thing there. I’m speaking as a multiple EV owner in Saint Martin.
Secondly, drivers in the Caribbean are the same as continental drivers. They commute. So, their demands are no different than 80% of the world’s commuters. If there is an outlet then there is a place to charge.

Well, the infrastructure is almost ubiquitous, but unfortunately people’s willingness to let you use it isn’t. For example, in the U.S. there is wide range of receptiveness at RV parks, which typically have dozens of outlets ideal for charging EVs. At some they welcome EVs. At others they charge outrageous prices for charging. And at still others they are outright hostile and refuse any service.

Considering the fact that some of the islands are LHD and some are RHD, the difference between EU and US CCS will soon become a bit of an issue depending on where cars get imported from. I guess suddenly Nissan choosing to stick with CHAdeMO worldwide isn’t so crazy after all…

On the other hand, many of them are small enough that they probably don’t need much (if any) DCFC charging at all.

Almost any tropical island seems like it would be ideal for EVs. Lots of sun and wind, no extremely long distance driving, and probably not too difficult to get enough infrastructure in place apart from higher initial costs because of having to import things. We were on Maui this spring visiting relatives and one of their main gripes was the high cost of gas. We also saw a lot of Leafs.