Jamaica’s electric vehicle market set to take off

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The opening of the first public electric vehicle charging station marks the start for a change in vehicle usage in Jamaica.

The public charging station installed by the Jamaica Public Service utility is located at a service station in Drax Hall, St Ann on the Caribbean island’s north coast.

Dubbed JPS Charge ‘N Go, it features chargers with different specifications to cater to three different vehicle requirements.

It should be followed with a further five chargers due to be in place by the end of 2021 in the island’s two cities, Kingston and Montego Bay, as well as in other urban centres.

“The new electric mobility ecosystem is about all of Jamaica,” said JPS President and CEO Michel Gantois at the inauguration.

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“With this electric mobility ecosystem, we want to create internship opportunities for students and training opportunities for technicians and mechanics to service EVs. This ecosystem is also about creating innovative financing opportunities for persons who want to pursue new ventures in the EV industry.”

With support from the Inter-American Development Bank, the country is due to introduce 200 EVs and to train 400 individuals in maintenance and safety practices. In addition, the development of new EV related business models will be supported.

The IDB has estimated that if Jamaica was to electrify around 15% of its private and public fleets, the economy would benefit from approximately 2% of the GDP.

EV sales are booming globally with an over 40% increase in 2020 compared to 2019, bringing to the total stock to over 10 million, the IEA’s latest EV Outlook indicates.

However, their large scale uptake is likely to prove challenging in the Caribbean, which relies on imported stock and used Japanese cars in particular, without specific support measures.

In Barbados for example, which is considered a leader in adoption in the region, import duties for EVs have been set at 10% compared with the 45% on internal combustion engine vehicles.

Nevertheless, for those who are able to switch to EVs, the individual benefits are significant.

In a nice PR exercise which could well be emulated elsewhere, JPS’s Director of Engineering Services Ricardo Case has done a real world analysis for local drivers, indicating savings in transport costs of around 60% by switching to electric, i.e. that the electricity costs of recharging are of the order of 40% of the petrol costs for similar travel distances.