by Tim Smith
The green revolution has often felt like a long, slow journey on Bermuda’s roads during the past two decades.
But with increasing numbers of electric vehicles arriving on the island this year, and a fleet of 30 electric buses being introduced by the Government, we’re closer to take-off than we’ve ever been before.
Environmental awareness is growing among local motorists, according to dealers, as people observe car manufacturers in Europe and the United States making great strides towards reducing their emissions.
And while size restrictions continue to prevent them importing larger numbers of electric vehicles, dealers have at least found ways of satisfying some of the demand.
The Hyundai Kona, India’s first all-electric SUV, has proved a big hit at Auto Solutions, with five sold and another 80 on order, of which 55 have been presold.
“We are confident in this,” said Harry Andrews, sales and operations manager at the St John’s Road dealership.
“People have done their research with the Hyundai Kona. It’s been a nice model over the years. We get a lot of feedback from customers.
“They like it because it’s F Class; all the reviews people have read have been positive. They like the look of it, it’s aesthetically pleasing. It doesn’t look like an electric car.
“There’s a market demand on the island for the electric movement.”
The Bermuda Automobile Dealers Association has lobbied the Government in recent years to increase the maximum size for electric vehicles by two inches in length and one inch in width.
This move, it believes, would allow many more suitable and affordable electric vehicles into Bermuda.
A Ministry of Transport spokeswoman said: “The Ministry of Transport is considering amending the specifications under the modernisation of the Motor Car Act 1951.”
Auto Solutions managing director Glen Smith said manufacturers also had to be persuaded to release their electric vehicles in Bermuda.
But he said: “We built several cases to all our manufacturers that Bermuda is a place that is feasible – if you fit that size restriction you have won the Grammy Award. It worked with the Kona.”
A total of 607 electric vehicles were licensed in Bermuda in March. This included 298 private motor cars – an increase of 63 in 12 months – as well as 186 rental mini-cars, 47 intermediate trucks, 35 auxiliary bikes, 17 motorbikes and 11 light trucks.
Earlier this year, the Government announced its new electric buses would cut emissions by the equivalent of 1,500 cars.
In addition to the Kona, Auto Solutions has sold all eight of a new shipment of the Honda Hybrid. Eurocar offers the Renault electric or hybrid cars Zoe, Captur, Clio and Kangoo, and is also hoping to get permission to sell the Twizy. Bermuda Motors offers the Toyota C-HR Hybrid, Kia Soul, BMW I3 and BMW 225XE IPerformance Active Tourer.
EJ Klock-McCook, a carbon free mobility expert at the Rocky Mountain Institute, which has been advising the Government on its energy plans, believes Bermuda’s green transport revolution is ready to go.
“Research shows that when someone in the neighbourhood gets an EV, it’s contagious,” Mr Klock-McCook said.
“It’s certainly concludable that a highly visible project like the buses, with the media moments and people seeing them day-to-day, could have some influence in awareness over time and lead to comfort in the performance.”
Smaller dealers have also stepped up to the plate.
Bill Calko, the owner of Rev Automotive Ltd in Southampton, said he was “swamped with calls” after revealing he was bringing in the Volkswagen e-Up last year.
Mr Calko also has eight clients interested in the ID 3 Volkswagen, but he will not be able to bring it in unless size restrictions are amended.
“It’s really snowballing. I can feel it through the feedback and the clients that are calling,” Mr Calko said.
“Once they get here, and people see them and get to touch them and drive them, it’s going to come.
“Bermuda can lead the way in this field, 100 per cent.”
Andre Labonte launched Evolution Motors in Pembroke with his wife Lynn last year to try to promote cleaner energy for his grandchildren’s generation.
Mr Labonte said: “We loved our electric BMW and we thought we should be encouraging other people to get electric cars too.”
Evolution received a shipment of five Levdeo cars from China last year, and is planning up to 40 MG SUVs by the end of this year.
One of the most recognisable electric vehicles in Bermuda, the rental Twizy minicar, has continued to grow in popularity.
Current Vehicles now has 120 Twizys and five Citroen Amis, and chief executive Piers Carr said it is making inroads in the local market through its shared mobility app.
“There are 60,000 residents with varying degrees of transportation issues, with the limitations in place as far as how many cars per household,” Mr Carr said.
“If you live in St George’s, you can pick up and drive to town one way for $6, and the leave the vehicle there.
“You see it around the world, this trend towards shared mobility.”
Mr Carr said he had hoped to show the potential of electric vehicles in Bermuda when he founded Current Vehicles five years ago.
He said: “It’s not taken off as it should do. We need to make some obvious changes to the regulations, the power to weight status. Most vehicles hitting the market now don’t hit the criteria. I think that’s the big barrier.
“But you look at how well the Kona is going to sell here – you bring a new model in and get people excited.
“If options increase, I’m sure they will sell a ton of them.”
Another option, of course, is the electric bike.
Jody Place, who has sold almost 350 models from Nakada Electric Bikes in Somerset since 2017, said customers appreciate the savings on fuel and the value of exercise, as well as the environmental factor.
“Bermudians take a while to connect,” he said. “We are far behind on electric buses and far behind on electric cars.
“But every year when we get a shipment, 20 bikes are sold before they even arrive.”