Features

Driving into the Future

FortisTCI introduces its electric vehicle program.

By Kathy Borsuk ~ Photos Courtesy FortisTCI

Driving in Providenciales during morning and evening “rush hours” or in the aftermath of a road closure or traffic accident reveals the sheer number of vehicles operating on the roadway. This exponential growth over the years mirrors that taking place around the world. Vehicle emissions continue to add to the steadily rising global CO2 levels that are so affecting the climate and, in turn, every ecosystem on the planet.
With this in mind, FortisTCI in April 2018 launched its first electric vehicle and charging station. It is part of a year-long feasibility study to see how this new technology can best “merge” into the Turks & Caicos Islands’ driving future.

FortisTCI introduced its first electric vehicle in mid-2018, the Nissan Leaf Acenta.

That jaunty (and quiet) green leaf-adorned vehicle that many residents and visitors have seen cruising around Providenciales is the 2017 Nissan Leaf Acenta. It is a 100% electric car with a 30kWh battery which, when fully charged, can drive up to 100 miles. I recently spoke to Senior Director of Business Development & Analytics Archie Gaviola about the Leaf and its potential future in the Islands. He explained, “Electric cars are ideal for a small island nation, where most trips are less than 5 miles and rarely longer than 20. Because there is no tailpipe pollution or greenhouse gas emission, they are an ideal option towards doing our part to protect the planet from further environmental damage. And they can provide tremendous cost savings. The Leaf would use about 30 kWh of electricity to travel 100 miles. At current rates, that comes to about $12.50!”
FortisTCI supplies 98% of the Turks & Caicos Islands’ electricity, so exploring the adaptation of electric cars to the country has great significance. FortisTCI President/CEO Eddinton Powell notes, “We are preparing to meet the future energy demands of our customers in traditional and nontraditional ways, including offering environmentally sustainable energy solutions.”
When you have an electric car, it must be plugged into a charging station—either a public station or into your electric supply at home. Similar to a Smartphone, it takes about 30 minutes to charge a car from 0 to 80%. As Archie explains, “We are studying the grid impact of electric cars to make sure the system can handle them safely and reliably. For instance, let’s assume that by 2023, we have 5% adoption, which would be about 500 vehicles. The demand coming from those vehicles charging at the same time could require additional investments. The cars come with an appliance plug, but electric vehicle owners have to ensure that individual homes’ and businesses’ electrical installation could handle the draw.”
Right now, the FortisTCI Leaf is driven by employees during business hours for errands and charged at the station in front of the corporate office. The goal is to get Islanders used to the concept, bring more awareness to the general public and encourage purchases by individuals and businesses. Although the initial cost may be higher (the 2019 Leaf currently retails at about $30,000), because there is no “engine” per se, duties on electric cars are only 10%. There is also no need for oil changes and “fuel” costs, as noted above, are drastically lower. Part of FortisTCI’s feasibility study is to determine the total cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle and see if it is a truly sensible option.
In fact, the Nissan Leaf is the best-selling, highway-capable electric car in history, with over 350,000 sold worldwide as of September 2018. Styled as a five-door hatchback, it is aerodynamic and can attain speeds approaching 95 mph! Typical battery life is about 10 years, which may be slightly less in the Caribbean sun—one reason why the FortisTCI vehicle is always parked under shade. Drivers report super-quick acceleration and a smooth and silent ride.

The EV charging station is in front of FortisTCI’s corporate office on Providenciales.

Archie Gaviola says that, to the extent that it makes both operational and business sense, FortisTCI wants to be THE company to start a fleet transition strategy from fuel to electric-powered vehicles. In fact, part of their investment involved electric vehicle repair and replacement training for the FortisTCI vehicle services team in April 2018. This was followed by specialized training for emergency responders in handling accidents involving electric vehicles and their specialized systems. There are already several TCI car dealers who are becoming electric-vehicle certified, as they look towards the future. Long-range plans will be to encourage government and public employees to consider using electric vehicles.
As reported in the Summer 2016 issue of Times of the Islands, FortisTCI is on track to launch its one megawatt, large-scale solar project by the end of 2019. This follows on the heels of the first installed grid-tied solar energy systems on commercial properties in Providenciales in 2017. Grid-tied solar programs—Customer Owned Renewable Energy (CORE) and Utility Owned Renewable Energy (UORE)—are available to both commercial and residential customers across the Turks & Caicos Islands. FortisTCI currently has half a megawatt of solar energy connected to the electricity grid and expects to complete installation of another half megawatt from customer programs by June 2019.
For these remarkable efforts, FortisTCI was recently awarded the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum’s 2018 “Best Distributed Generation Program” award for its CORE and UORE solar options. These solar options were designed to encourage the adoption of solar energy technology and to help create a more sustainable energy future for the TCI. Participating customers receive credits on their monthly electricity bills to help offset energy costs while also helping to reduce impacts on the environment.
It is a step in the right direction, underlining the need for each citizen of our planet must begin to take responsibility for keeping it “Beautiful by Nature.”



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German photographer Georg Roske took this interesting image as part of a series of photos for the new South Bank development on Providenciales. And although he takes his pictures intuitionally and spontaneously, he realizes the “perfect moment” must be well calculated. For more of his work, visit www.georgroske.de

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