Gov’t will soon receive recommendations to restrict importation of gas and diesel vehicles

If Government accepts the recommendations which the Energy Division intends to submit by early next year, restrictions will be put on the importation of fossil-fuel powered vehicles as part of a new transportation policy for Barbados.

Permanent Secretary in the Division of Energy Andrew Gittens revealed on Tuesday that later this year or early next year, his department will be proposing that Cabinet put the breaks on the importation gasoline and diesel vehicles in order to clear a path for “clean energy” automobiles, as the country drives towards the goal of near 100 per cent renewable energy usage by 2030.

Gittens said the vision will ask Cabinet to consider the challenges currently being experienced by the local dealers of electric and hybrid vehicles whose clean energy cars’ cost, cannot compete with that of the conventional automobiles or the variety in models authorized for importation.

“There is an interest, but it is just a matter of that cost coming down. I believe that once the base cost is lowered…in other words, as the technology improves in a couple of years, I suspect the price will fall in line with the conventional vehicles. The other issue is that the Government has to make a decision sooner rather than later in terms of a policy on how they will treat to that. The policy speaks to 2030 that there will be a transition,” the permanent secretary told Barbados TODAY.

“We recognize all of these challenges. I think that is what we are actively looking at – involving the stakeholders, the dealers, the minibus people. We are having some consultations with them to see how best we can go back to Cabinet to say to Cabinet, ‘we know what the policy says, 2030, either electric vehicles or renewable energy, but these are the constraints’. And I believe that if the Government recognizes that there are constraints beyond our control, I believe that is something we may be considering.  But notwithstanding, we will still, at some point in time, give a clear signal that at a particular time in the year there is going to be a restriction on the importation of fossil fuel vehicles,” he stated.

Gittens argued that once the conventional vehicles are allowed to continue coming into Barbados, they would have to be permitted to run their useful lives.

“And that is something we are hoping to go back to Cabinet with either later this year or early next year; then we believe the Cabinet would be in a position to articulate a very clear policy going forward in terms of transportation in the transport sector,” disclosed the Permanent Secretary.

Gittens also pointed out that while the tax rates on electric vehicles were significantly lower than those of the conventional automobiles, the challenge comes from the initial cost.

“In other words, you go and buy a regular diesel or gasoline vehicle, it may cost $30,000; so when you put on the taxes it may come to $60,000 of $70,000. With electric vehicles, the starting price might be $50,000 or $60,000 and even though the duties are significantly less because the base price is so high, it still keeps the price very high,” Gittens said.

He said the Ministry of Finance has received representation from the dealers which it will consider.

“If we buy let’s say 400 [electric vehicles] per year when you compare that with another part of the world where they are buying a million. The local dealers have a difficulty getting access to many brands. Right now there are a lot of brands on the market in terms of electric vehicles, but there are not many brands available for a small country like Barbados; and the dealers recognize that as a challenge because people want variety,” Gittens explained.

The PS also said that for example, there are only two models of electric and hybrid vehicles available on the local market.

Nevertheless, he added, there is still a good uptake of these vehicles in spite of the high cost.

“A person would spend $100,000 on an SUV, but to pay that same amount for a Leaf which is a hatchback car…that is the challenge.  But there is a take-up of it. But as you would recognize with the electric buses for example, we have close to 50 buses and this ministry actually has an order for another 10 to help supplement the bus fleet. So we know there is a take-up of buses,” the senior public officer disclosed.

“But the cars are not as fast as we will like, but it is still improving. I have not checked recently, but I believe there could be going close to over 500 to 600 of them on the road. So the uptake is slow, but it is getting there bit by bit. On a per capita basis that may not mean much, but when you look at the number of people in Barbados and the number of electric vehicles and charging stations, we have a very outstanding rate per capita. Obviously not for total cars, but I have seen a lot more electric and hybrids on the roads,” he added.

Meanwhile, Managing Director of Nassco Limited Roger Hill said that all the dealers in Barbados are willing to make the switch from fossil fuel-powered vehicles to electric and hybrid.

Hill, who is part of an informal group of automobile dealers who meet to discuss issues related to the sector, contended that while the interest is there, the problem is a question of product availability.

“Up to now, we do not have an electric vehicle from Toyota. What we have been getting is the hybrid vehicles which also are energy-saving vehicles and will reduce the carbon output. We have been successful in getting those along with other models that we have coming online down the line. I believe Courtesy Garage just introduced an electric vehicle. But it is not the fact that we don’t want to bring them, it is the availability of them, getting them for our market,” the car dealer told Barbados TODAY on Tuesday.

“There is a serious problem with the allocation of units now. A lot of our models which we have been bringing over the past three or four months, we cannot get the quantities, even in hybrid vehicles that we are ordering. We have some restrictions on quantities because of components needed in manufacturing vehicles.  There is a shortage throughout the world in components. So this has created an additional problem for us in the industry,” Hill complained.

He added: “Moving towards energy-saving vehicles is not an easy thing for our area. For instance, Toyota is manufacturing electric vehicles, but no electric vehicles have been allocated as yet for our region. So we are waiting on that. What we do have are hybrid vehicles and we have introduced two or three models of hybrid vehicles and that will start to penetrate the market more.”

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