By Cherri-Ann Farquharson
Capacity Development and Gender Expert
The Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
Our world is facing a climate crisis that is impossible to ignore, and it is up to every individual, country, and sector to take action and minimize its impact. The automotive industry is no exception; in fact, it is a significant contributor to the issue at hand.
The Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) reports that fuel imports make up around 10% of the gross domestic product of CARICOM’s 15 member countries. Of that figure, the transport sector is responsible for 30% of the total fuel consumption across our nations. The statistics indicate that the transportation sector is a crucial area where we can take action to reduce our dependency on imported fuel, encourage the diversification of energy supply, enhance transportation efficiency and comfort, and decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The latter is very important, as, according to the United Nations, the transport sector is the largest contributor to GHG emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean, accounting for almost 39% of the total emissions.
Therefore, the need to revolutionize our mode of transportation has never been more urgent. And there is a compelling case to be made for countries to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) as a pathway towards a cleaner, more sustainable future. In 2017, the International Energy Agency reported that the number of EVs worldwide stood at three million; five years later, that figure stood at 26 million, and it is predicted to jump to 125 million by 2030.
It is crucial that the Caribbean participates in the global push towards electric vehicles, especially considering the current reliance on imported fuel to power transportation. Added to that, one must also appreciate that fuel imports eat up a lot of foreign exchange reserves, which developing countries like those in the Caribbean can ill afford. So, the region should be embracing the EVs. As countries which benefit from an abundance of natural resources which may produce electricity, like sunlight, prevailing winds, biomass, rivers and our untapped seas, our region is particularly suited for the transition to electric transportation, as it would assist in significantly reducing the region’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Already, efforts are being made in the Caribbean to embrace EVs. Across the region, governments have been introducing incentives to encourage the transition to lower-emission vehicles, including the reduction or removal of import duties and value-added tax. Among the countries doing this have been Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia and Jamaica, to name a few. These incentives have, in no small measure, helped to increase the adoption and affordability of EVs.
Barbados, in particular, has set an example by leading in EV adoption. Currently, there are over 600 EVs in use on Barbados’ roads, with more than 100 public and private charging stations, and in 2018, 1.28% of new car sales were electric. As a result, Barbados ranks among the top countries in terms of per capita usage of EVs. The country has also begun replacing its fleet of buses at the state-owned Transport Board, with 59 electric buses already on the road. Jamaica has followed suit, having already procured 6 electric buses for public transit, and Trinidad and Tobago has committed to adding electric buses to their fleet. In Jamaica, personal EVs are also becoming popular. In 2018, there were 10 EVs in that country; today, there are over 200.
There are several reasons why EVs are being seen as attractive and sustainable modes of transportation and why one might want to consider switching to an EV. EVs are much better for the environment than traditional gas-powered vehicles, producing zero emissions. EVs are very efficient at converting electricity to power at the wheels. This means that even if an EV is powered by electricity that is primarily generated from fossil fuels, it still contributes to fewer emissions than internal combustion engine vehicles. By driving an EV, you can, therefore, significantly reduce your carbon footprint and help protect the planet. With efforts ongoing to limit the planet’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must act fast to reduce GHG emissions – EVs can help.
Where EVs are used, there are also fewer health problems caused by air pollution. Poor air quality can exacerbate diseases such as asthma, lung cancer, and cardiovascular issues. Additionally, the vehicles are quieter, resulting in less noise pollution.
In addition to their environmental benefits, EVs offer several practical advantages over gas-powered vehicles. For example, they require less maintenance, as they have fewer moving parts and do not require oil changes. Their increased energy efficiency also means that you can save money on fuel costs over the long term.
The revolution brought about by electric vehicles represents more than just a shift in automotive technology. It is a crucial step towards a more sustainable and equitable world. As nations grapple with the devastating impacts of climate change, the choice is becoming increasingly clear. Electric vehicles are not just an option; they are imperative for the future we hope to create. Countries, including those in the Caribbean, must take collective action to switch to electric vehicles and commit to a vision of progress that values not only innovation but also sustainability and the preservation of our planet for future generations.
To support the move toward electric vehicles, partners, the CARICOM Secretariat, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the CCREEE, with support from New Energy Events, Flash Motors and Tropical Mobility, will host an EV-Lution Exhibition during the Eighth Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum at the AC Marriott Hotel, Kingston, Jamaica on Tuesday, November 7.