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November 03
09:12 2019


By: Major Lloyd Jones (Ret’d)

My recent column – “Electric Vehicles: Plug In and Shut Up” – gave rise to some interesting debates. Many people felt that there are more important things that we should be focusing on instead of EVs. Others felt that whereas EVs are certainly coming, Belize is not yet ready. Yet still others thought that we should plunge ahead in the name of the planet.

I thought that hearing from a Belizean who actually owns an electric vehicle might add flavour to the debate and so I spoke with Mr. Merickston Nicholson and here is his perspective:

Q: How do and will electric vehicles perform in Belize?
A: currently there is one EV in Belize being used commercially as a passenger transport vehicle. It is a 2017 Tesla owned by PUMA Development Company Ltd and it has 22,000 miles clocked on it. The performance has been superb and I see no reason why other EVs can’t perform equally as well. The key is building in-country capacity for maintenance and repairs and building the public charging network.

Q: What was the initial investment in the vehicle?
A: Being an early adopter is usually much more expensive. Since the purchase of this vehicle more electric vehicles have been coming to the market and the prices are generally coming down. The Tesla is unique to other electric vehicles as it is currently the largest capacity with the longest range. Also with updates to newer vehicles you get more bang for the buck. Every year they improve but the price stays the same.

Q: How was it delivered to Belize?
A: this vehicle was ordered through Tesla Mexico and Tesla delivers to any point in a country where they have a dealership, so they delivered this one to the Belize/Mexico border at no extra charge.

Q: What about servicing?
A: one of the reasons for purchasing through Mexico is that for servicing we simply send them an e-mail to arrange date and time and they meet us at the border and service the vehicle at our place of business. Of course they do charge a nominal fee for this. So far we only had the scheduled check-up which consisted of a visual inspection of the suspension, steering, and other areas of the vehicle, replacement of the windshield wipers, cabin air filter, and key batteries.

Q: What is the guest experience?
A: the guests are amazed that it is all electric. Usually when you think of an electric vehicle you think of something impractical, slow, and the battery going dead. The electrical vehicles of today are fast, convenient, and spacious. With this vehicle we are able to remotely control the acceleration so the drivers don’t do zero to sixty and give passengers whiplash; also the top speed is remotely controlled so the maximum speed the vehicle will go is set by us, and we can track exactly where the vehicle is in real time on our devices.

Q: How about operational costs – what do those look like?
A: electric vehicles are way more efficient then internal combustion engines (ICE). ICE vehicles are at best 35% efficient whereas an electric motor is 95% efficient. The only thing holding electric vehicles back is the storage of electricity (batteries). In term of operating costs, for $12 worth of electricity from BEL we get the same utility as if we had put $100 diesel in our ICE vehicle. Other than that there are no oil changes or other cost associated with engines. There are still tires to change of course.

Q: What about charging?
A: this is the easiest thing and the best part of electric vehicles; you never need to go to the gas station. Plug the vehicle in at the end of the day like you plug in your phone and it charges. We have a destination charger which adds 50 miles of charge per hour and we also have a 14-50 220 volt plug similar to an electric dryer which we always use; it adds about 30 miles per hour. Electric vehicles can also be charged using a regular 110 volts outlet found in your home just that it charges slower. Depending on how much driving you do, your house outlet is usually enough.

Q: Any special points of interest?
A: never run your battery dead and only charge to 90% unless you need the extra miles. It prolongs the life of the battery. Driving an electric vehicle is a little different than driving an ICE vehicle. Most of the driving is done using only the accelerator. Whenever you lift off of the accelerator a little the vehicle slows because of the regeneration function. The motor acts as a generator which charges the battery and slows the vehicle. Electric vehicles are well suited for the cities and rural areas where speeds are unusually less than 50 mph. On highways at high speeds the battery gets used up faster especially at speeds above 60 mph.

Q: As a person who has experience with electric vehicles, what are your thoughts on the future of electric vehicles in Belize?
A: electric vehicles are the future. They are easier to drive, offer better performance than gas engines, are great for the environment (no pollution) and best of all are extremely efficient.

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