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Switching to electrical vehicles no smooth ride in T&T




By Sharlene Rampersad / TT Guardian

Petroleumworld 10 29 2021

When David Harrypaulsingh started looking for a new car in 2019, he searched for an option that would cost him little to nothing to maintain.

After scouring YouTube videos, Harrypaulsingh discovered the Nissan Leaf, a fully electric four door hatchback. In his search for the vehicle locally, Harrypaulsingh discovered P&V Marketing Company Ltd, run by head of the T&T Automotive Dealers Association (TTADA), Visham Babwah.

Harrypaulsingh settled on a brand new 2019 Nissan Leaf, which cost him $295,000. The car is fully electric and does not require gas to work—it runs on an electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery pack.

While that cost may seem high, Harrypaulsingh told Guardian Media he has never regretted his decision.

“It cost me almost nothing so far to maintain this vehicle, I do not have to change any belts, filters, oil, nothing at all to maintain this vehicle,” Harrypaulsingh said.

He said his car charges at a rate of nine per cent per hour and takes roughly 11 hours to completely recharge.

As for the cost of charging the car using his home electricity, Harrypaulsingh said it has been almost unnoticeable.

“I have been paying approximately the same amount every month even after I bought the vehicle. I haven’t seen significant increases in my electricity bill.”

He hopes the Government would invest in more public charging stations, as he said the stations at Brentwood, Chaguanas and Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain cannot charge his car.

But Harrypaulsingh said he is satisfied with his vehicle’s performance and the mileage a full charge gives.

“I went to New Grant already (from Aranguez) and I only used up 50 per cent of my battery capacity,” he boasted.

He has become an advocate for the switch to electric, saying he recommends electric vehicles to anyone he meets.

“The drive is amazingly smooth, there is no changing of gears, the acceleration is out of this world...This car came with all the bells and whistles of a high end vehicle, it will stop for itself if you are going to get into an accident, it has self parking, 360 degree cameras, this car is just amazing,” he said.

And while Harrypaulsingh was only recently introduced to the benefits of an electric vehicle, his dealer, Visham Babwah has long been an advocate for making the switch.

“I have always been conscious of the damage we have been doing (to the environment) not just through the automotive industry alone but through everything, litter, waste,” Babwah said.

Several years ago, Babwah explained he became the first local dealer to import fully electric vehicles.

“I have been importing these cars since 2015, but back then, the issue was the range, so there were concerns that you would run out of charge while out and about. The range of the vehicle was very short,it was 90 miles, so people were not able to get from Point A to Point B without getting range anxiety because we had no infrastructure where people could charge their cars,” Babwah told Guardian Media.

He currently has several 2018 Nissan Leaf vehicles in stock that he said have caught the eyes of many potential clients.

On January 1, 2022, when tax allowances are expected to be implemented for the importation of electric cars under two years old, Babwah said he will be importing a much wider range of electric vehicles.

But even as more people become interested in electric options, Babwah said he tries to consistently educate the public on the pros and cons of switching to electric.

“I always try to give them the proper information about buying an electric car because this car has zero tailpipe emissions, so I would tell them about the advantages and disadvantages, like you won’t have any servicing to do on this car, with regards to oil, filter, and these types of fluids, but of course you have to bring the car in once a year to have it checked.”

He said this is especially important as many people have common misconceptions about electric vehicles.

“People need all the information because most people are of the opinion that when they buy an electric car, their fuel bill will disappear but their electricity bill will go sky up. I have an electric car at home that I charge and it costs me about $10 per charge, you don’t even see a difference in your electricity bill, even if electricity rates were to go up by 300 per cent, you would still only be paying $30 for a charge which not be anything close to liquid fuel,” Babwah said

So far, he has sold between 50 to 60 Nissan Leaf vehicles.

He said many of his customers anticipated the tax exemption that was announced in the 2022 budget presentation on October 4 by Finance Minister Colm Imbert. But Babwah said his customers were hoping for more of an inclusive policy.

“They were hoping that there was no restriction on the kilowatt and the battery size so they could buy a vehicle and drive every part of Trinidad and they could come back home and charge at home. A lot of persons have called me and expressed their disappointment in the budget and the policies announced because people cannot afford to own a vehicle that is environmentally friendly,” Babwah said.

He said a lot of his customers can afford vehicles in the $100,000 to $130,000 price range. He believes the requirement for vehicles to be under two years old puts those vehicles out of the price range of many customers.

“You might like an electric car but it is totally out of your range, you will not qualify for the loan, and if you do qualify for the loan, the Government will cause you to indebt yourself for another eight years of your life to pay for a car, which is something I don’t see much financial sense in. Or the person will decide to buy a regular internal combustion car, and it doesn’t matter to them whether they pollute or not, remember a car in Trinidad, for 90 per cent of the population is a necessity.”

Babwah said Government policy should not be crafted in such a way that it ignores 90 per cent of the population.

Meanwhile, TTADA vice president, Rondell Fields, said the Government should reconsider removing tax exemptions from hybrid vehicles.

“You can’t have a move from fossil fuelled vehicles to electric vehicles all in one step, we need to have an intermediary,” Fields said.

He said when taxes were exempt from the importation of hybrid and electric vehicles several years ago, the public responded favourably, rushing to purchase the cheaper hybrid options.

Fields said TTADA members sold 40,000 hybrid vehicles.

“Can you imagine the benefit those vehicles had on our carbon footprint?” he asked.

He said in order to get citizens to subscribe to more environmentally friendly options, they must have a variety of options.

“The thing is to have a transition that is even beneficial to the environment, you must get the mass population, the middle class consumer, the public servant, who owns most of the vehicles in Trinidad and Tobago to make the transition. You may have the higher stratosphere who can afford an electric car, at $200,000, or $250,000 and we get them to transition at this point, but to have any kind of positive impact when we make this transition, you must re-incentivise the hybrid vehicles,” Fields said.

Why are electric vehicles important?

You may find yourself asking how switching to electric vehicles can protect the environment and help ensure the health of the planet for future generations?

Scientists have found that the use of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) contributes almost one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions that are currently heating up the Earth’s atmosphere and fuelling climate change.

Climate change includes rising temperatures, extreme weather events (more intense hurricanes and storms, more intense heat waves), rising sea levels and a range of other impacts.

As a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), Trinidad and Tobago is especially vulnerable to these impacts-think about the now almost constant flooding events, the coastal erosion that has destroyed homes and communities and the fields of crops that die from drought.

Climate change isn’t just a term that environmentalists and activists throw around- it is our reality.

Climate change is a global issue and in 2015, at the United Nations 21st Conference of the Parties, world leaders examined its impacts on human life. Out of meeting in Paris, an agreement, a legally binding international agreement, was created. The Paris Agreement seeks to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2030.

Yesterday world leaders began meeting in Scotland for COP26, where each leader will be called upon to tell the world how they intend to reduce their emission level before 2030.

By switching from an internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) to an electric vehicle, you will immediately reduce your carbon footprint and start contributing significantly less greenhouse gas emissions as electric vehicles do not pollute the air with tailpipe emissions. In 2018, a medium-sized electric car was found to emit about 60 per cent less CO2 equivalent emissions than a gas powered vehicle.

In August 2021, a Ministerial Committee from the Ministry of Planning and Development met to coordinate the execution of the Implementation Plan for the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of Trinidad and Tobago to the Paris Agreement (2017-2030). During that meeting, Kishan Kumarsingh, head of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit of the Planning and Development Ministry said an Electric Mobility (e-mobility) Policy for Trinidad and Tobago is at an advanced stage of development. Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis told Guardian Media the policy will be presented to the Cabinet soon.

Robinson-Regis said she was working on the policy together with Energy Minister, Stuart Young.




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