Source: The Barbados Advocate

Web Posted – Mon Mar 05 2007

By Nicholas Cox

I ONLY recently learned that electric cars were popular early in the last century, out selling vehicles with internal combustion engines during that time period, and boasting greater energy efficiency.

Unfortunately, these electric cars, officially called battery electric vehicles (BEVs), became obsolete after the electric starter was introduced in favour of internal combustion engines. My interest in BEVs was piqued last week because of a headline on television describing an electric car with better performance than a Ferrari or a Porsche.

The story featured the Tesla Roadster, a 100 per cent electric vehicle, which can reach 0 to 60 in about four seconds, and uses the equivalent of 135 miles per gallon, with 250 miles per charge. When it was over, all I could think was I want one!

I had no idea that technology had advanced to a level that allowed for electric cars to be that efficient. It is significant because the production of an electric car with this level of performance means that consumers could charge the batteries for their vehicles through renewable sources, like solar energy. According to the web site Wikipedia, BEVs reduce dependence on petroleum, may mitigate global warming by alleviating the greenhouse effect, are quieter than internal combustion vehicles, and do not produce noxious fumes.

This technology could have a huge impact on countries like Barbados which, as far as we know at present, lacks significant petroleum reserves, and has over 100 000 vehicles on its roads. Coupled with proposals like the Draft National Energy Policy, which suggests that consumers could contribute to the energy grid of the Barbados Light and Power by generating renewable energy at their homes, this means that in the not so distant future this country could potentially drastically reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

Another promising area of the renewable energy sector is the production of ethanol, which is currently being undertaken by Government. Ethanol is being viewed as one of the saviours for the sugar industry in Barbados, with Government aiming to produce 14.7 million litres of ethanol annually from fuel cane.

Barbados also stands to benefit from an agreement to be signed between the United States and Brazil, which aims to promote the production and use of ethanol in Latin America and the Caribbean. Under this initiative, the region could become less dependent on foreign oil, by replicating Brazil’s success in producing ethanol from sugar. Theoretically, if Barbados reaches its proposed capacity, it could earn money by exporting ethanol to the United States. According to the New York Times yesterday, The United States imposes a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on imported ethanol, but Caribbean nations and countries in the Central American Free Trade Agreement are exempt from those duties if they make the ethanol from products grown in their own countries. Using Brazilian technology for refining sugar-cane-based ethanol, such countries could in time become exporters to the United States.

In addition, Caribbean nations can export a limited amount of ethanol that comes indirectly from Brazil and other countries. Under the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which has been in force for years, countries can take partly processed ethanol from a country like Brazil and carry out the last step in processing before shipping it to the United States.

Clearly, Barbados and the Caribbean stand to benefit both environmentally and economically from advances in renewable energy technology. Efforts are therefore needed to make the public more aware and interested. To this end, I applaud the national consultations on the Draft Barbados National Energy Policy. I support any effort that will reduce the impact on the environment of the vehicles on which we rely so heavily, and that can also help Barbados earn foreign exchange in a holistic manner.

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