As Jamaica gears up for the electric car revolution, the Government is not only fine-tuning the road map for transition but is looking to incentivise a swing to the market.
The shift towards electric has heightened globally, especially with automakers committing to end the production of the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles as early as 2025, with countries like Britain and France giving deadlines of up to a decade later.
The pitch for lower import costs has been backed by Lynvalle Hamilton, president of the Jamaica Used Cars Dealers Association.
He recommends that the Government consider reducing the duties for electric vehicles by at least 50 per cent.
Electric vehicles are believed to be significantly cleaner and safer for the environment than traditional gasolene- or diesel-powered vehicles and also more cost-effective.
Energy Minister Daryl Vaz was coy on a timeline for a transition from, or a ban on, ICE vehicles, but said that the Government was mindful that Jamaica should not become a cemetery for gasolene- or diesel-fuelled automobiles.
“The transition must begin in earnest, starting with favourable consideration of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service for how to incentivise this new industry,” Vaz told The Gleaner.
“Whether a ban or the use of fiscal disincentives, petrol-run cars need to be phased out.”
Jamaica has completed its strategic framework for electric mobility, but the policy details are now at a preliminary stage. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Development Programme/Global Environment Fund have partnered with the Government on the effort.
The minister disclosed that the IDB is now awaiting a decision from the finance ministry on the recommendations for the fiscal regime for electric mobility.
“The March 2018 Cabinet decision for the development of an electric vehicle policy indicates the recognition of the Government that vehicles with internal combustion engines will become a thing of the past, giving way to the newer, environmentally more friendly and efficient electric vehicles,” Vaz said on Tuesday.
President of the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association,bDianne Parram, said while its stakeholders have started to prepare for the paradigm shift, they don’t believe it will be a reality until another 20 or 30 years.
“Mainly because now we are having hybrid cars, so we are expecting that it is going to be here for a little while. We expect we will go into hybrid and then gradually phase into electric vehicles,” she said.
IN DIALOGUE WITH JPS
But, Parram said that her coalition of service station interests were assessing the cost dynamics of the emerging market.
In meantime, the Boot service station in St Ann has already to set up a charging station.
This, Parram said, is in addition to plans by the Jamaica Public Service Company to establish charging stations at strategic points across the island.
The utility company is partnering with Total Jamaica to install charging stations at four of its locations – Ironshore, St James; Manor Park and Harbour View in St Andrew; and Port Antonio, Portland – at a cost of approximately US$600,000.
Kent LaCroix, chairman of the Automobile Dealers Association (ADA), said his organisation would also monitor developments. However, while he believes that full transition is in the “not-too-distant future”, the timeline forecast by some carmakers for termination has been described as unrealistic.
The ADA represents new-car dealers.
Stakeholders of his lobby believe that there some critical first steps. Key among them, LaCroix said, is the infrastructure for charging the batteries and the technical expertise to service electric vehicles.
“One also has to sort out the duty aspect; it’s a long way, it’s not something that will happen overnight,” he said.
“It’s not like petrol where you just fill up and go. Things have to be done in a structured fashion.”
The JUCDA’s Hamilton said that the country was “not too far from being fully ready”.
However, he said that while there is growing interest in electric, there are concerns about battery cost, auto parts availability, and the technical expertise.
“If those fears are dealt with, I believe we will have more orders and more dealers importing,” Hamilton said.