At the wheel of green motoring

Drivers in the 35-50 age bracket, who are professional, educated, have a high income and are serious about eco-friendly products. Also ideal for anyone who wants to cut fuel costs and is keen to “go green”.

It has been a long journey for John Felder, the man who is the driving force behind the introduction of electric vehicles to Cayman.

After years of campaigning and legal hurdles, the government finally gave the green light to these innovative cars this autumn.

“I am extremely overjoyed for this mark in history in the Cayman Islands which will mean a cleaner and healthier environment for all future generations,” Mr, Felder tells InsideOut.

“This has been a seven and a half year journey to get the law changed to allow electric cars on public roads.”

The issue has been a personal objective for Mr. Felder, who firmly believes that there must be a switch to sustainable energy consumption in Cayman and worldwide.

“Petroleum will not last forever,” he points out.

“Petroleum is a limited resource and a vexing source of price spikes and geopolitical instability. Carbon dioxide is the number one source of emissions in the world and is depleting our ozone level. The only way to reverse this situation is reducing our dependency on foreign oil. Electric cars are our future and the technology is improving each and every day, especially battery technology.”

Mr. Felder is the chief executive officer and president of Cayman Automotive Leasing, Marketing and Sales Ltd, which will be supplying electric vehicles with a retail value in the region of $20,000 to $77,500.

It is the first company in the Caribbean to market and sell electric vehicles, as well as being the first to offer a network of solar panel charge stations to service electric vehicles.

All the electric vehicles sold by Cayman Automotive adhere to the requirement of the United States National Institute of Traffic Highway Safety Administration.

A native of Columbia, Maryland, in the US, Mr. Felder knows a thing or two about the automotive industry.

He worked for the Chrysler Corporation for 25 years as a sales and service district manager for the company’s Mid-Atlantic region.

During the late 1990s he took his first trip to Cayman where he met the late G. Hurley Merren, a pioneering businessman who became a great friend, as a result of which Mr. Felder decided to move to the islands.

He has been living in Grand Cayman since 2005, with much of that time spent campaigning to get electric cars legally on the road.

“The quest to bring electric vehicles to the Cayman Islands and Caribbean began in 2005 on the Rooster Talk radio programme with Austin Harris and Ellio Solomon,” he recalls.

Since then he has worked tirelessly to overcome legal hurdles with regards to legislation relating to electric vehicles.

In 2011, Mr. Felder was able to license his first Chevrolet Volt, an electric plug-in hybrid car, for use on Cayman’s roads.

He thought that was the end of the road in terms of problems but soon found another obstacle: he couldn’t register a 100 per cent electric car.

The new traffic law, which allows for electric-powered vehicles to be driven on Cayman roads, had to come into force before this could happen.

However, Mr. Felder refused to be discouraged by the delays and setbacks.

“Feedback has been very positive and one of the brighter moments is that Cayman Automotive has been put on a global market due to all the publicity,” he reveals. “I have recently returned from China after an invitation to visit one of the largest automotive manufacturers there.” 

Mr. Felder, who will himself be driving an electric car, hopes to see a shift in motoring patterns now that the vehicles have been given the green light.

“I would like to see the Cayman Islands Government purchase some electric cars to set a good example,” he says.

“(I think) there will be a steady, gradual move to electric cars. Islanders will purchase electric vehicles because it just makes good business sense with the high price of gasoline at nearly $6 a gallon. No gas, no pollution, just clean fun.”

Electric facts 

  • Based on the recent CUC charges, the average cost of recharging an electric vehicle is $2.50-$3.50 to drive 100 miles. Factor in the use of a solar powered charge station and that cost can be further reduced. 
  • Electric vehicles can travel up to 85mph and some can go much faster, such as the Tesla S which can accelerate from 0-60mph in 5.4 seconds.
  • The premium model can travel 300 miles on a single charge.
  • Seating is currently for two, four or five occupants.
  • Vehicles can be charged by a regular 110 home outlet or you can use one of the charge station networks.
  • The stations currently being set up are at the Cayman Motor Museum, Governors Square, Camana Bay, and the Kaibo Beach Bar. Once the network is completed, there will be a total of 14 charge locations, all of which are scheduled to be completed by mid-2013.