Available EVs in January 2015

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Available EVs in January 2015

Things have advanced in a few months for EV shoppers. A future customer asked us for assistance finding 2 vehicles for personal/business use. One car should make a statement and the other to fit in. So we decided to publicly explore options that may face anyone January 2015 in the Antilles. The driving is short distances and under 70 kph (43 mph).

Our dilemma in selecting what to use on a small island with big city traffic is not going to be limited by distance or charge time. It will be size, utility and comfort features. With our client, visual appeal will also be a factor.

First we inspected the high end BMW i3 and middle upper level MB B Class electric. Second we judged the mid level VW eGolf and Kia Soul EV. Lastly, was Mitsubishi i-Miev and VW e-Up.

The 2014 BMW i3 ($41k) was designed to be a departure from the norm. Carbon fiber body panels resists all rust and denting more than metal. But damaging them enough to need replacement will need specialists the island doesn't have. The back seat in this luxury car is not luxury in size. Calling it a 4 seater is being generous. The dash is all digital plus a few buttons. USB plug is included. As we stated, this car is a standout from business as usual. Push button start and keyless entry is optional but a feature that we like so much in our Nissan Leaf in the US, that we cannot imagine any future car purchase without considering this feature.

The 2015 Benz B Class electric ($34k) is a 5 person full size vehicle that will appear from inside and out, to be a standard car from this German producer. Fewer screens and many more buttons than BMW, the B Class has the classic feel of its nicer predecessors. This car is an undercover EV using Tesla batteries. Leather and proximity radar that slows the vehicle is available but keyless entry, push button start and a USB plug is not. A high end car without modern conveniences is a contradiction.

The 2015 VW e-Golf ($33k) is another German, 5 person carrier with push button start, keyless entry and a subtle difference in appearance to gas version. Nothing futuristic here. Good engineering we assume because its German. But if history is a predictor of future performance, then we cannot know what to expect from any offerings here but Mitsubishi, which has been making their sole EV offering for 5 years. A professional reviewer online really disliked this VWs problematic, grainy touchscreen. It has no USB plug.

2015 Kia Soul EV ($26k) is going to visually fit in due to the popularity of Kia cars in the Caribbean. A full 5 seater with all the features of above plus more. The size and utility of it I believe will make it a predictable hit anywhere. The only possible fault it has along with all of the others (but the i-Miev) is the fact that it is new and untested. 

2015 E-Up (£19.5k) is smaller, more modern, a bit more minimal than the e-Golf. It is the sole true competitor to the i-Miev, which has not changed in 5 years. This little car is only sold in the EU, and higher in price than i-Miev. Neither has push start, keyless entry or USB plug. It has an elegant design that is new. Its glass rear is similar to the BMW i3. 

2014 Mitsubishi i-Miev / Peugot iOn / Citroen C-Zero ($22k/£25.5k) are the same car under different badges. It is the most basic of cars, but with a standout design that as we continue to drive it, constantly get questions & compliments. The Info/Entertainment includes USB, Bluetooth, DVD, SD player. Having the oldest design means also the shortest travel distance of 65 miles/100 km. Rear folding seats give great cargo space in this 4 door, 4 seater. Twisting roads at speed make the car lean a bit.

Mitsubishi has the only car without an app to monitor the vehicle's battery or activate the air conditioning in advance. However, this may not matter since it is uncertain if this communication based service will be offered in places where the car is not. The i-Miev does come with an actual remote which can operate the same functions up to 300 feet away. 

ALL EVs HAVE:

  • instant torque and are faster than gas cars from a stand still
  • solid and stable grip of the road
  • no wheel spin in slippery conditions and therefore perform similar to 4 wheel drive
  • narrower tires for more fuel efficiency
  • no spare tire
  • a portable cable to charge from a standard outlet
  • little to no maintenance except for tires, wipers or filters
  • no effects on performance from extreme tropical weather
  • warranties between 8 years & 100,000 miles
  • greater efficiency in traffic versus high speed driving, the opposite of gas cars
  • no pollution / emissions
  • brake pads that last 3 to 5 times longer due to regenerative braking
  • less electricity consumption than plugging in a refrigerator when charging
  • batteries charged in less than 5 hours at 220v outlet

 

 

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The End of 2014. The Beginning of Current Car Company.

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The End of 2014. The Beginning of Current Car Company.

The amount of paperwork and governmental processes are almost finished. We hope to complete it in the next week, when we return to the island after spending 6 weeks stateside. We have verified our financial/bank status, as well as our partnership roles in Current Car Company. A hassle free car rental and car sharing company which also sells imported EVs. Based online, we will accept reservations and scheduling in advance via an upcoming app for mobile devices. We will also take them at the soon to be built website in 2015.

Our model for service will be comparable to Silvercar, a US based paperless car rental system, and Zipcar, a paperless carshare system. Both are known for exemplary customer service. We do this with the hopes of changing the status quo of each adult owning a car, adding to the gridlock and pollution on the island.

When real-time ride sharing comes around, we would like to be a part of it as well. Uber, Sidecar or Lyft like services on the island would be useful. It would reduce governmental need to regulate taxis and put that money in the hands of the consumer and businessperson, which could be ex-taxi drivers.

For a small island, smaller, clean cars would be a good start. Fully occupied, bigger, clean shared vehicles would be even better. Here's looking to the future of quiet, clean intra-island travel that could be copied across the Caribbean.

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The Car Made It In One Piece

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The Car Made It In One Piece

The little EV made the long journey to the little island causing some stir in the process. As soon as we informed a few people of its capabilities, they wanted to know more about our plans. These people happen to be in TV. So, we hope to see our idea broadcast sometime soon. The car handled all the island had to offer. It lasts for 2 full days of regular driving with A/C on before needing a charge.

Our managing director likes the vehicle so much so that he gave 6 rides to friends. Four are very interested in the business and one wants to buy the car outright. We now are looking to obtain selling, car sharing and rental rights on the island. This may be the tipping point of EV adoption in the Caribbean. Exciting times are ahead.

The managing director also has connections to other islands locally, which may mean expansion occurs as soon as capital is obtained. Now comes the fund part. 

 

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Thinking about the City

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Thinking about the City

In late 2011, hearing of the Think City manufacturer going bankrupt, I began to research more about the car. Selling the last 100 of them in Indiana at $22,000, I thought then, "Thats a good deal!" This was due to the additional $7500 you could get incentive-wise, bringing them down to $15,000. Finding out fleets of them were being used for rentals in Europe made me wonder, why not in the Caribbean? But then after talking with a few locals on the Friendly Island, I was reminded about the cost of power on half of the island, the conservative "risk adverse" attitude and the current style of luxury that consumes a tourist economy, pardon the pun.

Even though the new affluent ride bikes, buy local organics and shun gas guzzlers in the states, islanders have not caught up to that way of thinking. But some like where we are going more than where we have been. It usually is the prime factor in telling how old you are. However, I believe its really about perspective. Cost of power is offset by the savings in petrol expense. Who goes first is just a matter of when, and then everyone follows. Finally, selling the concept as luxurious is attitude. We were sold driving ourselves is affluent, when families in the past had maids AND drivers. Only lower classes touched gas pumps, I assume.

So, as I wait for the estimated time of arrival for the EV at the port of Palm Beach, I reconsider that Think City rentals could still happen. It could be Mitsubishis instead or a combination. Off grid charging stations had been part of the capital investment plan. But maybe advertisement could offset the outlay, as Volta does in the US. Maybe we crowdscource the capital. Ideas are living things that can evolve and they're called "memes". 

UPDATE: Title papers have been FedEx'd to the shippers. They're expected tomorrow. A third party picks up the vehicle afterwards, to deliver to the shipper. Hopefully that action takes less than a day, since their distance is less than 10 miles. So, the best case scenario has the car arriving at port on Friday and staying there 3 days, due to US Customs requirements. Then departing Wednesday to hit the island Sunday October 19th.

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Car Sharing should fit in SXM, right?

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Car Sharing should fit in SXM, right?

One would think that on an island with many visitors, little space and no public transport worth noting, that sharing rides or cars might take off quickly and easily. But just as in the US, it really depends on insurance coverage what possibilities are in the running for the Friendly Island enterprise. Would they allow public use of personal cars? Would something like Uber be possible? Would there be backlash from providers of insurance or licensed drivers? It really depends on how many people use it and how much money might be involved.

On the island, like many other islands, tourism is king. So, the concept of car sharing might not pay the bills like a standard rental business. But could there be a mix? Of what would that mix consist? Would it be a Zipcar like system that applied the fleet to alternative uses? Or an Avis like system that has automated access to local or frequent users? Are there any examples anywhere?

Meanwhile, how can the issue of electricity usage be overcome where rates are highest? The answer is portable charging platforms and anchored off-grid stations. The portable station is less expensive but only facilitates one car at a time. The larger anchored off-grid station requires construction approval and more investment, but services more cars at once, which is good for inevitable growth.

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Buying & Exporting a Car to the Friendly Island -part 2

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Buying & Exporting a Car to the Friendly Island -part 2

After having notarized power of attorney papers FedEx delivered to their corporate office, CarMax export officer, Brent, expedited the process that was above the pay grade of a sales manager at a dealership. He responded quickly after every question of ours. He sent wire transfer papers by secure means. He explained the next hurdles to be jumped after the bank received payment.

The exporting of a car used to allow adding items to its interior for shipping, but no more. So, the 4 tires and the external hitch purchased for the car had to be sent separately. A cost of $66 by Tropical shipping. Window tinting was going to be done by a third party, since CarMax does not offer it. But exporting also doesn't allow third party intermediaries. Only the dealership handling the paperwork can be in contact with the vehicle. Be careful what you say to a salesman.

Update: Monday Oct 6th, wire transfer was received by CarMax. They will be finishing up sale documents and DMV processing by mid-week and hope to have the original documents out to Tropical shipping by the end of the week.

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Buying & Exporting a Car to the Friendly Island

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Buying & Exporting a Car to the Friendly Island

It is easy to find a low mileage 2012 Mitsubishi EV in the US. Its easy to find one under 3000 miles. There are two trims: ES & SE. SE has a DVD player, GPS navigation, USB connection to audio, two charge ports, bluetooth capable and aluminum wheels. These cars are essentially new. Some were presumably bought strictly for the tax incentive and sold for a profit. 

We found an SE for $12,000, with less than 800 miles, in Georgia. CarMax has locations nationwide. They ship from one to another for a fee. From Atlanta to Palm Beach its $300. Exporting to SXM in fall 2014 from Palm Beach cost $2000 and takes 4 to 5 days excluding a 3 day hold for US Customs. We wanted to buy this car while sitting in DC. No unneeded flying. Prior to paying the nonrefundable shipping charge, the salesman assured me that paperwork could be sent from their CarMax to one nearby for signature finalizations. 

A few extras would be needed to cover eventualities like a flat tire or carrying extra luggage. This includes spare tires and a cargo hitch plus hitch mount. Window tinting is a must. CarMax will not add items to your car unless its a pre-approved third party. Be careful what you say to a car dealer. According to their rules, they must do the required export paperwork if you mention exporting is the fate of the car. This can save you in taxes registration fees in the US, but it can also take longer to process. Our dealer's estimation is 3 weeks.

If you decide to tell the salesman that you are exporting, be sure to get a manager involved. Salesmen tend to be only familiar with the basics. And exporting is not a basic action in a dealership, even near a port. Our experience has been a comedy of errors due to this lack of knowledge. A manager got involved, but administrators at CarMax headquarters will be required to complete the export process. It makes one wonder what the need is for a salesperson at CarMax in this instance.

CarMax salesmen's flippant nature to sending passports and driver's licenses electronically is disconcerting. If you are familiar with computer security, internet privacy or have just read about hacked celebrity nude photos from Apple's cloud, you should be wary of sending personal federal documents online. They should be encrypted. Email is no different than sending a postcard by regular mail. It is easy to see the contents. Sending something protected is easy from many sources. Send secure Dropbox links which you can set the time length of access. Have the sender and recipient install respected encryption software to encrypt one one end and decrypt on the other.

IDs are not fax friendly items. This is one option they gave for starting the paperwork process. They found out that color photos do not come out via fax. Their only other option besides USPS was to send photo images of my ID by email. After expressing hesitation, they reiterated their secure and professional corporate habits. They didn't seem to hear my explanation of the lack of security before it gets to their inbox.

As of Monday, September 29, 2014, the corporate office in Richmond, Virginia, has been quick with processing our documentation securely. The process of purchase negotiation started September 21, 2014 after a test drive by a trusted party in Miami. The main office has quoted 4 weeks for everything to be completed. Tropical shipping has quoted 4 to 5 days for travel. Customs require a 3 day hold prior to the car leaving port.

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Picking an EV for the Caribbean

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Picking an EV for the Caribbean

Finding a good car that will not need special mechanics for service requires research. It means looking through records of recalls and maintenance guidelines for EVs, reading personal blogs and long term reviews. By immediately removing the new models due to ineligibility for federal tax incentives and lack of maintenance data, this still leaves many choices. There are compliance cars (Fiat 500e & Toyota RAV4EV), which are only sold in a few areas of the US and are therefore not likely to be cheap shipping because of distance from the Caribbean.

Those with significant recalls have mainly been American EVs (Ford & Chevy). They are also more expensive than some competitors. So, this leaves used EVs like a Leaf, i-Miev, Think City, Smart FourTwo, even +10 year old RAV4EVs and Ford Ranger pick up trucks. Becuase of the low appeal of two seaters on the island, we can remove the truck and the Smart car.

The Nissan Leaf is very popular in the states, due to the big push that Nissan has given. But there is a battery overheating issue, due to the method of cooling, which was publicized in the southern states. Additionally, we are leasing a Leaf in northeast US and have had diminishing battery capacity annually. Now that Kia has presented info on their 2015 model EV, we look forward to finding out their lease rates stateside.

Out if the many bad reviews of Mitsubishi's EV, not one has been found regarding the battery overheating or excessive degradation. Things the reviewers dislike are things that are irrelevant to SXM circumstances. Its is a basic no frills car. It can't go far. It is small in comparison to other cars. It can't keep highway speeds for extended periods. The car can get cold in winter.

These gripes are not gripes anyone in the Caribbean would worry about. But it is the reason that they have made 8,000 of these cars in 2012 and could not sell even a quarter of them, so they didn't make them in 2013. They took away the choice of options for 2014, so now there's just one trim model. Sounds like a great rental car, right?

The Think City's last production run was in March 2011, but it can still be purchased. A Swiss company has a fleet of them for rent in the mountains to offer zero pollution transport. The bankruptcy of the company inspired the idea for copying the Swiss and pasting it to SXM. There's a dealership near Baltimore & Colorado that still had a few yet unowned. A backseat can be added for 4 seat capacity. Its exterior is made of plastic that won't deform. The same stuff of children's toys but stronger. You can find pictures of ones that are 4 years old which haven't aged at all. Mechanics would be happy to travel to the tropics to work on one if the need ever occurred. Or so they said.

For a rental fleet, the Mitsubishi and the Think would handle the utility of the job. But what about groups of more than four? There are no options when it comes to mini-van EVs. Nissan expects to release one in 2015. And the Ford Transit Connect EV is made for the commercial crowd. It lacks the touch of comfort, but it may be a useful addition in the future. They can also be found at reasonable prices ($25k-$30k) across the US.

 

 

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Copy & Paste Car Rental Idea

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Copy & Paste Car Rental Idea

Applying facts is the best way to make a decision. But people don't let facts get in the way of a good story. So, this means that this endeavor could be a sad story, a boring story or another one bites the dust story. But a scientific viewpoint is a tough thing to get rid of, once you learn to use it. Ghosts, magic and rumors turn to vapor when under the empirical eye. That is why I greatly admire Elon Musk.

Musk made fools out of major car manufacturers, solar panel distributors, and those who thought a successful private space transport industry would not be in our lifetimes. He singlehandedly proved them wrong with science and research. I just want to copy his Tesla model and sprinkle in some Zipcar or Relayrides. The Friendly Island is easily covered by any electric vehicle's battery pack. The sun shines all of the time. So why are countries with less sun and longer driving commutes already on their second and third generation EVs and many Caribbean islands haven't seen its first?

Money isn't the obstacle, because the cars are now so cheap that if you can afford to import a car, you can import an EV. They cost less to run & maintain. They are comfortable and useful as we hope to show & prove right here. Can electric car sharing make island life more friendly? Here's a hint, the answer is yes!

Don't say there's no place to charge them, because any place you can charge a phone can also charge an EV. The plug should be outside, for convenience. It may take longer than your laptop, but how far you going? Anguilla? This year, a solar panel seller & installer owner bought a Nissan Leaf, the first in Anguilla. Same for SXM, although that owner was not in the solar business. But even though its not a third world country, electricity is something that Caribbean islanders know is not 99.95% uninterruptible, like it is in the US or the EU.

How long will the batteries last? The manufacturers of the most EVs are covering their warranties for 100,000 miles. Which means that if they are willing to back their cars for that long they should last longer than that. There are EVs built in 2002 still running well. Some being sold are asking for more than $10,000 US. Check eBay or adhuntr.com. Some owners have replaced the batteries in those 15 year old cars for $5000 US.

There are some other COOL things EVs can do. Like start the AC before you get in the car, so that its as nice in your car as it is in your home or office when you enter. It can give you the status of the battery from an app or a mobile device depending on the car. They definitely can charge your phone by USB or lighter plug.

Back to the plan. Bring EVs to SXM and make them easily available to rent or share in the same way Zipcar has made cars, a service provided to the international community. Tesla has a charging system free to those who purchased their vehicles. This equals free fuel, which I would assume means lifelong customers. Many of the stations are solar powered, which means moderate initial cost and almost zero maintenance costs for the business. This approach would be especially beneficial for parts of SXM where electric rates are high or in places of power fluctuations occur. Some companies build stations that can be moved by flatbed truck or towed in case demand becomes more popular in one place versus another.

The possibilities are vast. New technology that can boost safety, health, efficiency and usefulness for all. It would even reduce traffic, car exhaust, noise and brownouts. It could increase preparedness after calamities by making access to power mobile, since EVs are really big batteries on wheels. In Japan, they can power a house for over a full day from an EV.

SXM offers the world a great place to get away. That also means SXM has world influence to take advantage of. Facts should be the guide. Other island nations are advancing. Oil will not decrease in price. It has no reason to get cleaner. Sun is abundant. Solar panels will get cheaper. But one step at a time. We need more EVs in Saint Martin. We are looking for some Friendly Islanders to join our business experiment. What can you offer? Would you buy a car if it came with a lifetime of fuel? Would you share it with others?

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