Six years ago, when talking to a main dealer, they made it clear that they would not allow a hybrid gas and electric powered battery vehicle to be brought into the country through their business and if someone imported such a vehicle, they would certainly not take on the role of servicing the model, even if it was one supplied by their brand, overseas.
Four years later, the Toyota dealer finally brought in a number of Prius models, but the base price in Barbados was around BDS $120,000, compared to US$21,000 in the states. For further comparison, the Toyota Corolla that sells at around US$17,000 in the US, costs around BDS $72,000 in Barbados, meaning that the mark-up was more than significant to someone wishing to purchase a hybrid vehicle.
Although the owner would save money on gas, they were overpaying, perhaps $30,000, over the lifetime ownership of that car: 3-7 years? Is it worth overpaying to save your gas/petrol bill, which is the equivalent of $500 a month over five years?
Although it could be argued that people must always pay to be early gadget freaks, the Prius was certainly overpriced by between BDS $25,000 and $30,000.
And then it all went quiet.
During 2013, electric cars finally reached Barbados, courtesy of a new business called Megapower, based in Wildey. Although the Nissan Leaf (the models they have brought in to date) appears expensive at just over 72,000 Barbados dollars (compared to a Ford Focus or a Toyota Corolla at around $72,000 new), especially as they are not new models, they do bring a welcome relief for those who no longer wish to pay for the price of gas which has doubled in the last three years.
It could be argued that using electricity to power a vehicle is still using a fossil fuel, but until everyone can afford to install solar panels and windmills to provide enough electricity for the home, business and charging your vehicle, it appears to be cheaper than the cost of gas.
The Barbados Light and Power Company that provides almost all of the electricity in the country has brought in a Nissan Leaf which they charge at 220V, although the majority of the country is based on 110V electrical supply. They suggest the Leaf requires between 15 and 17 kW per hour which is equal to somewhere between $8.23 and $9.32 to charge the car from flat for between four and five hours. That’s around the cost of about 3 L of gas and you’ll be able to travel for the equivalent of between 3 and 4 gallons of gas.
Megapower has installed an enormous solar panel recharging centre and they aim to add at least another 10 charging stations at strategic points around the country. From their website they point out some extremely salient facts;
Megapower provides a real alternative to powering vehicles in Barbados which is heavily reliant on imported oil; Barbados relies almost entirely (96%) on fuel oil and diesel to generate electricity and 90% of this is imported.
You’ll have to pay around $5000 to have a charging centre attached to your home or business for the electricity supply to charge your vehicle.
Megapower have a large range of Nissan Leafs available in this country and being brought in from abroad, but it is unclear how long the batteries are guaranteed for and more importantly, how long they will last, especially with the heat and humidity of Barbados, compared to the majority of European countries, so European data cannot necessarily be relied upon.
For a car that is expected to able up to travel at least 100 miles between charges, that should satisfy the needs of most standard customers that travel around the country for at least 2 to 3 days between charges. For some people it will mean charging their vehicle just once a week.
Megapower has thought further ahead by including a call out charge facility so that if your car does go flat when you’re out somewhere in the country they will able to charge your vehicle in about 20 minutes; enough to get you home or to one of their recharging centres.
Barbados really does need to cut down on its introduction of gas powered vehicles and the importation of gas, especially at ever-increasing prices. With the amount of sun that shines across Barbados, once the country is back on its feet again, we should expect to see many people changing their electricity supply to solar power and from a gas powered car to an electric model. We will need to see a variety of larger and smaller models available soon, but one area still needs addressing by the government. The government charges road tax by the weight of the vehicle. A battery-powered car is going to weigh more than the equivalent gas model (and in some cases it may not be because of the absence of a standard engine) which means people taking logical and environmentally friendly decisions will be penalised by the government who need to change the road tax band decisions to include a much lower amount applicable just for the initiative of introducing electric vehicles.
Watch this space because it is sure to change rapidly across the next five years. Even now, two US$100,000 Telsa models are on the way to the country as high-powered imports. The Tulsa probably packs more power than is required for the roads of Barbados, but it is up to individuals how they spend their money, how they drive and where they place their moral judgements in the future of the planet. For now, most people are worried more about the cost of purchasing and servicing their vehicle and then the cost of running it on our rapidly failing road system.
The lack of emissions from the EVs will be much preferred to sitting behind a diesel lorry or a ZR van. Perhaps emission controls will reach here one day, but maybe only after enough children have developed asthma in our mostly clean air society (have you landed in Miami and tasted the air?) and government realises the cost of running the QEH treatments for these illnesses;- unless you already happen to live near a cement producing plant.