Return To Paradise
The island of Nevis is a tropical paradise comprised of sandy beaches, mountainous rain forests, and unusual wildlife. The tranquility of the island is only compromised when cars drive by spewing pollutants through their tailpipes. What is the best way to rectify this problem? If perhaps, instead of conventional vehicles that run on fossil fuels, transportation was in the form of electric vehicles.
The island is relatively small, has a high density of services in a concentrated geographic area, and low speed limits - all the components necessary for the successful introduction of electric vehicles (specifically neighborhood electric vehicles) into the marketplace. Additionally, it is a tourist destination with many resorts whose guests require transportation for short trips.
There are numerous reasons to choose electric vehicles as a mode of transportation.
One of the most important is because electric vehicles are more beneficial to the environment. Electric vehicles (EVs) have a zero tailpipe emissions, are 97% cleaner that gas-powered cars, and would fill a perfect niche in the island commute car market, where the range is short and the need for non-polluting cars is the greatest.
Moreover, EVs are much quieter than internal combustion engine vehicles and would reduce noise pollution, thereby preserving the peaceful and serene nature of the island.
The island of Nevis and its sister island St. Kitts were the last sugar monoculture in the Eastern Caribbean. Faced with declining profits in the sugar industry, the government of St. Kitts and Nevis embarked on a program to diversify the agricultural sector and stimulate the development of other sectors of the economy.
The government instituted a program of investment incentives for businesses considering locating in Nevis or St. Kitts, encouraging both domestic and foreign private investment. Government policies provide liberal tax holidays, duty-free import of equipment and materials, and subsidies for training provided to local personnel. The government has demonstrated a willingness to embrace change; therefore, it is reasonable to assume that incentives for using electric vehicles in fleets on the islands would be considered by the governing body.
As part of normal business operations, virtually all organizations, public and private, operate a fleet of vehicles. These vehicle fleets are widely viewed as attractive first markets for new vehicle product and service innovations, for the following reasons:
- Fleet vehicles are, on average, driven twice as far as household vehicles on an annual basis, and thus the benefits derived from using a new technology are maximized. High mileage accumulations also reduce the timeframe for assessing long-term vehicle performance.
- A significant number of fleet vehicle purchases are made by government agencies or regulated companies, which are politically more compliant than other market sectors, and thus targeting these organizations demonstrates practical applications for new vehicle technologies and services.
- Many fleet vehicles are regularly fueled at one location, maintained in-house, and thus can be switched to new vehicle types even before a public service network is established.
Additionally, because electric vehicles are more efficient than internal combustion engine automobiles, they are expected to stay in service for up to a million miles.
Another important aspect to consider is vehicle maintenance. The maintenance of EVs is less complex than that required for internal combustion engine vehicles. EV water levels must be checked approximately once per month and the braking and suspensions systems must be evaluated on a regular basis. The main battery pack must be replaced every 3 to 4 years.
Utilizing EVs is an environmentally sound strategy in other ways as well. The lead aced batteries used by EVs are 98% recyclable. The lead is melted down and re-used, the plastic case is shredded and recycled, and the acid is naturalized and made into fertilizer. A major problem of motor vehicles is automobile junkyards, which litter the Nevis landscape. Oil, lead, and battery acids enter the ground and chlorofluorocarbons leak into the atmosphere.
Resorts on the island would benefit from Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs), which qualify as low speed vehicles (under 30mph) as defined by the National Highway Traffic safety Administration. They comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard applicable to low speed vehicles. NEVs are designed to be used in residential areas with low density traffic, and low speed zones.
By converting all resort vehicles into NEVs, the resort management would be avoiding all the traditional maintenance associated with internal combustion engine automobiles. No more lines at the gas pumps, oil stains, tune-ups, oil changes, radiator coolant emissions tests, muffler replacements, transmission woes, and many other common headaches of today's modern combustion automobile. Its also very economical - the initial purchase price, maintenance, insurance and costs of operation represent a very real and stylish alternative to a traditional gas-powered automobile for those around-the-resort trips.
There are many alternatives from which to choose, including, but not limited to: Global Electric Motor Cars, Bombardier, Th!nk Neighbor NEV.
Global Electric Motor Cars designed a vehicle that can drive for 30 miles at speeds up to 25 mph and it's a golf cart too - perfect for the many golf resorts on the island. It has a changeable cargo module in the back, which allows you to carry golf clubs or change it to a cargo bin. The vehicle plugs into a regular 110-volt outlet, has its own onboard charger, and charges in 8 hours.
The GEM is a "Multipurpose Neighborhood Electric Vehicle" equipped with 4-wheel hydraulic brakes, safety glass windshield with wiper, and three-point anchored seatbelts. It is the same height as a minivan and the swept back windshield provides unobstructed visibility. Standard features include headlight, brake lights, and turn signals. Additionally, enclosures can be purchased to protect against wind, sun, and rain. The vehicle seats 2 comfortably.
The Bombardier is the first mass-produced Neighborhood Electric Vehicle. The maximum speed of the Bombardier is 25 mph with acceleration from 0 to 20 mph in 6 seconds. The batteries are 6 X 12V maintenance-free lead acid and the total charge time is 8 hours (overnight). The cost of charging is approximately $0.40 per charge and the cost of a Bombardier NEV starts at $6199.
The TH!NK neighbor will come in two or four seat models and will have the power required of an electric vehicle. The 72-volt system produces hill-climbing torque that is required on the interior of the mountainous island. The top speed of the TH!NK NEV is approximately 25 mph and it provides a whisper quiet ride. It has an adjustable driver's seat, heater option, cup holders, flow thru ventilation, and AM/FM radio w/ CD option. The price is $6,000.
This is merely a small sampling of the possible choices for electric vehicles that would provide ideal transportation not only for Nevis, but also for all the Caribbean islands.
NEVs may be inappropriate for some uses, particularly on larger islands with highways and higher speed limits. On those islands a hybrid electric vehicle may be more suitable.
Role of Hybrids in Paradise
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) combine the internal combustion engine of a conventional vehicle with the battery and electric motor of an electric vehicle, resulting in twice the fuel economy of conventional vehicles. This combination offers the extended range and rapid refueling that consumers expect from a conventional vehicle, with a significant portion of the energy and environmental benefits of an electric vehicle.
The practical benefits of HEVs include improved fuel economy and lower emissions compared to conventional vehicles. The inherent flexibility of HEVs will allow them to be used in a wide range of applications, from personal transportation to commercial hauling.
Hybrid power systems were conceived as a way to compensate for the shortfall in battery technology. Because batteries could supply only enough energy for short trips, an onboard generator, powered by an internal combustion engine, could be installed and used for longer trips. In previous years, scientists believed that by biasing the system toward battery-electric power and operating on wall-plug electricity as much as possible, efficiency and emissions would be optimized until better batteries were available.
The natural conclusion of this concept was that, with better batteries, hybrids would not be necessary. But after 20 years of study, it seems that hybrids are taking center stage and electric vehicles are only being used in niche market applications where fewer miles are traveled.
Hybrids will never be true zero-emission vehicles because of their internal combustion engines, however, use of production HEVs will reduce emissions of global warming pollutants by a third to a half.
HEVs have several advantages over conventional vehicles:
- Regenerative braking capability helps minimize energy loss and recover the energy used to slow down or stop a vehicle.
- Engines can be sized to accommodate average load, not peak load, which reduces the engine's weight.
- Fuel efficiency is greatly increased - hybrids consume significantly less fuel than vehicles powered by gasoline alone.
- Emissions are greatly decreased.
- HEVs can reduce dependency on fossil fuels because they can run on alternative fuels.
- Special lightweight materials are used to reduce the overall vehicle weight of HEVs.
Auto manufacturers are making HEVs with comparable performance, safety, and cost because they know that these three elements are most important to consumers. And by combining gasoline with electric power, hybrids will have the same or greater range than traditional combustion engines. The HEV is able to operate approximately two times more efficiently than conventional vehicles. Honda's Insight can go 700 miles on a single tank of gas. The Toyota Prius can go about 500 miles. And for the driver, hybrids offer similar or better performance than conventional vehicles.
Many configurations are possible for HEVs. Essentially, a hybrid combines an energy storage system, a power unit, and a vehicle propulsion system. The primary options for energy storage include batteries, ultra capacitors, and flywheels, although batteries are by far the most common energy storage choice. Hybrid power unit options are spark ignition engines, compression ignition direct injection engines, gas turbines, and fuel cells. Propulsion can come entirely from an electric motor, such as an in-series configuration or direct mechanical input from the engine in a parallel configuration.
Hybrids efficiency and emissions depend on the particular combination of subsystems, how these subsystems are integrated into a complete system, and the control strategy that integrates the subsystems. A hydrogen fuel cell hybrid, for example, would produce only water as a by- product and run at greater overall efficiency that a battery electric vehicle that uses wall plug electricity.
In summary, there are many offerings of both electric and hybrid electric vehicles, which would be ideal for use on not only the islands of Nevis and St. Kitts, but on all the Caribbean islands. The technology is available and cost efficient. The islands would reap the benefits of EV and HEV use by decreasing air pollutants, noise levels, and dependence on foreign oil sources, and in the case of purely electric vehicles, eliminating the need for fuel. The government should be pro-active in establishing incentives for corporate and fleet use of EVs and HEVs to preserve the tranquil nature of the islands.
Ms. Natalie Olson is currently the Dealer Special Order Manager within Marketing, Sales, and Service at Ford Motor Company. She has spent 13 years at Ford in the automotive and transportation industry, and has held positions in Body Engineering (Program Management), and Chassis Engineering (Foundation Brake Systems). She holds a Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering degree from Oakland University (1988), and an MBA from the University of Michigan (1996).
Mr. Mathew Olson is presently the Final Assembly Leader for the Ford Rouge Site Renovation Program within Vehicle Operations at Ford Motor Company. He has 18 years of experience at Ford in numerous manufacturing capacities including New Model Program Leader, Testing Strategies, and Lean Manufacturing Development. He holds a Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Minnesota (1983).
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