Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jamaicans slow to plug in

Jamaicans slow to plug in

Even with skyrocketing fuel prices and the acknowledgement of the need for cheaper and renewable alternative energy sources, most Jamaicans are not warming up to the idea of owning hybrids or electric cars.
"They [hybrids and electric cars] are indeed better for the environment as they reduce environmental pollution, but Jamaicans, like most people, are afraid of the unknown," said Claudia Goldson-Rae, former race-car driver. "They [Jamaicans] would have to see how the cars operate over a long period before becoming interested."
Goldson-Rae - the first female to take the chequered flag at Dover Raceway, St Ann, at the opening of the venue in 1989 - said despite the snail's pace at which motorists generally tend to think about such vehicles, she feels the 'plug-ins' could eventually make their way on the racing circuit.
Promotion is key
"That would have to happen with proper promotion," she said. "If one of the well-known racers, such as a David Summerbell or a Peter Rae, decided to become the spokesman for the cause. That's when the racing public would begin to take notice."
Corporate Area gas retailer Donovan G. Brown said while the environmental benefits of hybrids and electric cars are well known, the cost to set up the 'plug-ins' would be a hurdle.
"There are a lot of things to consider as recharging stations at the fuel outlets and at home would be costly to set up," said the proprietor of LG Brown Service Station. "In addition, the costs associated with the importation of the vehicles would be great."
However, importers of Toyota's flagship hybrid vehicle, Prius, said prospective owners receive huge discounts.
Discount
"Buyers of the Prius receive a 63 per cent off the usual duty rates," said Tom Conner, parts manager at the Spanish Town Road-based Toyota Jamaica Ltd.
Conner said so far his company has sold four units and the persons who have bought them are quite knowledgeable about them.
"The 2011 Prius comes well appointed and costs $4.5 million," Conner said. He said, however, more basic units would be arriving in the island soon.
"The fact that it operates on both fuel and electric means the savings are enormous." The parts manager explained that a Prius owner who lives in Mandeville drove to Negril, on to Montego Bay, then to Port Antonio and back to Mandeville and still had fuel in his car.
Twenty-year taxi operator Paul Allen said he was not opposed to trying the hybrids or electric cars.
"I would try them," he said. "But this does not mean I would trade in my '95 Toyota Sprinter for them.
"Remember, we're used to regular things. We would have to see it work. But I would try it," he added.

Jamaicans slow to plug in

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