For John Felder, president of Cayman Automotive, the night of 30 August, 2012, is one he won’t soon forget.
The first Caribbean International Electric Car Show was launched at the Cayman Motor Museum in West Bay in Grand Cayman and it was officially announced that regulations allowing electric cars to be registered in the Cayman Islands had been approved. After seven long years of pursuing his dream to see Cayman go electric, Mr. Felder finally got his wish.
It was only in June of this same year that Mr. Felder attempted to register an electric vehicle at the Department of Vehicles and Licensing, but was unable to do so. Safety was among the concerns of Vehicle Licensing Director David Dixon, and Cayman Islands Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said that “the registration and licensing of vehicles was an intricate process and required extensive research on many issues.”
On Thursday, more than 200 people attended the opening night, which gave many of them their first opportunity to see how far the electric car industry has come. A number of different models were on display, including the popular Wheego; a two-seater zippy vehicle that will be one of the cars available for purchase at Cayman Automotive.
Frank Balderamos Jr. was the master of ceremonies, and after a brief welcome, he introduced Andreas Ugland, owner of the Cayman Motor Museum and sponsor of the electric car show. Mr. Ugland said that it was last year when his wife, Natalie, first suggested holding the show at the museum, and it was wonderful to see everyone’s efforts coming to fruition. Despite admitting to being a “bit of a petrolhead,” Mr. Ugland admitted that people had to consider the long-term benefits of going electric.
“We got together and planned this event and I am proud to be part of it,” he said. “In the long run we all have to realise how we have to change our habits, and there is no better place to start than in Cayman.”
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush had been slated to attend and make a speech, but was unable to at the last minute, so Cabinet Minister Mike Adam was sent in his stead to speak on his behalf. He welcomed visiting journalists and electric car manufacturer representatives to the Cayman Islands and then congratulated Mr. Felder for his perseverance in making the electric car show a reality.
“Thanks to the vision of Mr. Felder, originally from Maryland, USA, and Mr. Ugland from a well-established Norwegian shipping family, Cayman has taken a giant leap here hosting the first electric auto show among all the Caribbean islands.” He continued, “I am made to understand that the organisers are also striving to offer, again, for the first time in the Caribbean, electric cars to rent out of the Alexander Hotel on Cayman Brac.”
As Mr. Adam came to the end of his speech, he had a final statement to read from Premier Bush, which was greeted with raucous applause.
“I am happy to be able to conclude this speech with an announcement; and it’s good news. John, your efforts to promote electric vehicles in the Cayman Islands have paid off. It is now official; the traffic regulations allowing electric vehicles to operate on the roads of the Cayman Islands have been approved by Cabinet. And these new traffic regulations will actually become effective in a matter of two weeks.”
After Mr. Adam left the podium, Miss Cayman Lindsay Japal pledged her support for electric cars in the Cayman Islands and then invited a clearly emotional Mr. Felder to the podium.
“It’s been a long time,” he said. “I persevered, I had a dream and I stayed focused on that dream. When I retired from Chrysler it was my dream to bring electric cars to the Caribbean. I felt this was the perfect place for electric transportation. The perfect place. You have an abundance of sunlight, you have shorter distances [to travel] and you have a beautiful, beautiful island that you want to protect for future generations.”