||Central Bank Of Barbados
Once upon a time, people in the market for a vehicle asked themselves "Car, SUV, or truck?" or "Sedan or hatchback?" Now the considerations go beyond that to While gas-powered automobiles still dominate, there has been increased interest in other types of vehicles. Why? For some, its an economic consideration; for others, environmental. And there might be other reasons. Two drivers, one who recently made the switch to a hybrid, and the other who is on his second electric vehicle (EV), share their stories.
Akil Franklyn, an employee of the Grantley Adams International Airport, said the rising gas prices were a driving force in his procuring of a hybrid electric vehicle.
“Working at the airport and living in Black Rock, one of the things I was concerned about was my monthly gas bill, so the hybrid was the solution to that.”
Akil, who previously owned a traditional jeep, said his gas bill drastically decreased from $600 to $250 monthly, cheekily adding that his air conditioning is now “permanently on.”
On the other hand, Allan Field said his initial reason for purchasing an electric vehicle was his interest in “innovative things and the latest state-of-the-art stuff.”
Recalling his first experience buying an electric car seven years ago, he admitted it was also an “ego thing,” because he thought of it as an opportunity to play his part in helping the Government “save some money” on importing fossil fuels.
Allan, a mechanical engineer by profession, described the car as “convenient and wonderful,” recalling times in the past when he ran out of gas and his son would have to rescue him.
He says now, after seven years of using electric cars, he never experiences this problem. Instead, he finds it easier to manage since he simply has to charge it two or three times a month, depending on how much driving he does.
He also shared that because his house is equipped with solar panels, it’s easy and inexpensive for him to charge his car at home.
Another advantage to having an electric vehicle, according to Allan, is how little effort it takes to maintain as compared to other vehicles.
“When I received the car and I looked at the maintenance manual, it said “On year two change the windscreen wiper blades” and “On year five, check the brake pads.” I literally had it for four years and never had any kind of maintenance whatsoever except to change the air filter. That filter can over time get full of dust like the air conditioning filter at home.”
Gone are the days of oil changes.
“The truth, in fact, is that over my 73 years in driving in Barbados and abroad, it’s [his electric car] the nicest car I’ve driven. I would recommend it to anyone,” Allan added.
That’s not to say that owning an EV or a hybrid is without its challenges. The technology around them is still evolving and they are still relatively new to the Barbados market. As a result, there has been a limited number of people qualified to service them. There have also been some supply chain issues, especially coming out of the pandemic.
When Allan wanted to purchase his second electric car, a Volkswagen, he was told by his technician that there would be no one in the island to service it if anything should go wrong with its battery. So instead, he opted for a Jaguar, which could be easily serviced.
That was a year and a half ago.
Since then, there has been an increase in demand for EVs as well as an increase in trained personnel.
Jo Edghill, a co-founder and business director of a local company that specialises in EVs, confirmed that “over 100 Barbadian technicians have received training.” She added that “there’s now training through SJPI [Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology] as part of their auto mechanics training. There are modules in electric vehicles. And anyone selling electric vehicles should be providing specific manufacturing training.”
She then spoke to the matter of the supply chain. She confirmed it is a problem, acknowledging her company’s long wait list for EVs.
However, the business director said her company plans to expand their product range and work with other manufacturers to supply EVs so that this problem can be resolved within the next six to eight months.
So while there are challenges, there are also emerging solutions.
With those solutions, and with the VAT holiday, reduced import duties, and other incentives Government is offering as part of its efforts to speed up Barbados’ transition to 100 percent renewable, it’s likely that there will be more hybrids and EVs on our roads. In fact, it’s already started to happen.
As hybrid vehicles and EVs become more popular and dealers offer more options, once buyers have answered the question “Gas-powered? Electric? Hybrid?”, it will be back to “Car, SUV, or truck?”, “Sedan or hatchback?”, and maybe simply “What colour?”