Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2022. 3:12 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: It is hailed as our sustainable future, but will the Belizean public be able to ‘plug in’ to a future driving electric vehicles?
With the opening of its first public charging station at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel this morning, that is the bet Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) is making – and some of the groundwork has already been laid, according to the power provider’s General Manager for Commercial and Retail Services, Sean Fuller.
Fuller advises that potential vehicle owners should do their research on the types of vehicles available, but once you are able to import one, then you can ‘hook up’ to BEL to ‘juice’: “You simply register with BEL as a electric vehicle charging ecosystem user, download your free mobile app, you register with BEL for free; you can either tie that app to your existing BEL account or to a debit or credit card, and you simply pull up as we saw earlier to a BEL ‘Charge ‘n Go’ charging station and charge your electric vehicle; it’s as simple as that.”
And in terms of pricing, Fuller says the app tracks payment live as it happens. Pending any changes made by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) as regulator, Fuller says you can charge at home or at the Biltmore just like you would other electric appliances: “Today you could pull your electric vehicle into your parking lot at home, plug it into the wall and you will pay the same rate you will pay to run your electricity lights or fans at home.” The determination on prices will take place later on; Fuller does not anticipate any changes, but allows there may be. Customers have the option of paying for charging as a line item on their BEL bills, or by debit or credit card, or ‘topping up’ at their nearest customer center.
And while BEL said it is not going into the business of selling electric vehicles, Fuller says the investment is worth it, estimating that a new electric vehicle would pay for itself in costs and maintenance within two to three years brand new, while used vehicles are also available (in the U.S.). On fuel alone, based on a calculation of mileage used, customers may save close to 7 thousand dollars for similarly branded electric and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
Where will the stations be located? Fuller says there are plans to put stations in Orange Walk, Belmopan, San Ignacio/Santa Elena, and Dangriga in the first phase of the project, and eventually, they may become as ubiquitous as gas stations – for a far cheaper cost. An electric vehicle may theoretically cover the distance from Belize City to Punta Gorda and back with one, maybe two, charges.
BEL will use the current national grid to power the stations, but as Fuller noted, 54 percent of that grid currently uses renewable sources – i.e. hydroelectricity and biomass (bagasse from BELCOGEN). That figure is expected to rise to 74 percent in the next few years with the addition of solar installations.
Minister of Public Utilities, Logistics, and E-Governance, Michel Chebat, commended participants for contributing to national efforts to “ensure that our industry structures embrace eco-efficiency for advancing international competitiveness and move toward building a green economy…These charging stations are a game-changing development in Belize’s move toward e-mobility.” He further pledged to move quickly to address supporting legislation and infrastructure and ensure accessibility for all.
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