As we've been reporting, the price of fuel continues to be unstable on the international market, but BEL is suggesting that Belizean motorists should start to consider transitioning to electric vehicles.

They launched a major program this morning at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel, and 7News was there. Daniel Ortiz reports:

With increasing public disquiet about soaring gas prices, Belize Electricity Limited thinks that right now is the perfect time to present motorists with a new option to cover their transportation needs.

That's why they're rolling out the Pilot Project for their National Electric Vehicle Charging Ecosystem.

Sean Fuller - GM, Commercial and Retail Services, BEL
"Today, we're delivering on the first product of our efforts, launching the first of Belize's National EV Charging Ecosystem, consisting of level 2 and level 3 charging stations; back-office systems, including a web portal and mobile app for customers, and integrating with banks for credit and debit card purchases. This is why we say it is more about building an EV Charging Station infrastructure. We're creating a brand new ecosystem, one that will transform and transition our country to a more environmentally-friendly, cheaper, and safer means of transportation in Belize."

Similar to the fuel pumps at a gas station, these pieces of equipment can interface directly with electric vehicles. An EV owner simply brings his vehicle near to the equipment BEL has branded "ChargeNgo". As the name suggests, the owner then connects to the equipment, similar to the way they would plug in a cellular phone to a wired charger. The vehicle's battery takes a certain amount of time to charge, depending on which specific equipment is being used.

Sean Fuller
And while most electric vehicle owners would charge at home at night, there is a need for public charging stations to combat what is known as ‘range anxiety'. You don't want to hit the road going to Dangriga and realize, I might run out of juice. And so, we're installing in this first phase of the pilot 12 charging stations in Orange Walk, San Ignacio, Belmopan, Belize City, Dangriga - in this first phase. But, the long-term plan, 3 to 5-year-plan is that we will have public charging stations in every single corner of this country, in all hotels, gas stations, parking lots, groceries, public parks. We are working with the Belize City Council and the San Ignacio and Orange Walk Town Councils to install charging stations in their municipalities. So, in the event, you have to run to Dangriga or Hopkins, and you forget to charge at home, you would run, charge in Dangriga. And you could fully charge your vehicle within an hour because we'll have a level 3 charger, run to Hopkins and come all the way back to Belize City without having to charge again. So, these charging stations will be deployed strategically throughout the entire country of Belize."

The new ecosystem even has multiple methods of payment, since the electric vehicle is storing electricity to power the engine.

Sean Fuller
"We're building an ecosystem. It's not just about the charging station. That's the level 3 charger over there, and behind me, you see the level 2 charger. So, a part of the ecosystem includes a mobile app that you'll be able to download for free, register with BEL for free, and there will be 4 options. The first option, whichever your preference, will be that you would tie your electric vehicle mobile app account with your BEL electricity account, and the charging would be seamless. You will simply get an additional charge or line item on your electricity bill for the charging costs associated with charging your electric vehicle. For tourism guests or for anyone else who might not have an electricity account, there's an option on the app to tie a debit card or a credit card to that application so that when you use the app to initiate the charge at the charging station, your debit or credit card will automatically be billed, with the interface that we're building between the application and the local banking system. And then, then the 4th option that I just heard of yesterday, was sort of a pre-paid option. You could actually add credit to the app, to the account."

Of course, this system will only be successful if Belizeans start to embrace electric vehicles in a popular and mainstream way. And that's why BEL has invited local car dealerships to partner with them as stakeholders in this new opportunity.

Chad Dietrich - Rep., Caribbean Motors
"The late Steve Jobs once said, 'Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat.' BEL, we salute you for seeing this change as an opportunity, for making this investment to foster an environment where the sustainable transport future in Belize can thrive."

Leroy Gentle - Rep., King Motors
"Electric Vehicles have the potential to usher Belize to a green path that everybody can continue pointing at us as some of the best pushers in the impacts we create globally, for example in tourism."

Ted Tejada - Manager, Biltmore Plaza Hotel
"I remember 2 years ago, Sean had approached me and said, 'What about a charging station at the Biltmore?' I was like, 'Sean, how many electric cars do we have in Belize? He said, 'None, but it's coming.' He didn't know that I already believed in that. He didn't have to sell me on that. We were the first hotel to install solar water heaters here at the Biltmore. We believed that we needed to contribute to Mother Earth by helping to protect what the emission of these cars are doing. Last week, I was in Canada, and I was amazed that 40% of every vehicle that I got in was electric."

Chad Dietrich
"The challenge has been the availability of EV models that appeal to our market here in Belize, and I'm excited to say that our auto manufacturers now have market-ready models ranging from full-sized city buses to delivery and utility trucks, passenger and delivery vans, and all sizes of cars and SUVs, like this beautiful one you see behind me."

Leroy Gentle
"We have utility trucks, trucks that have the capacity of 2 and a half tonnes. We know when it comes to the moving of loads and moving of goods across this country, we know these are the types of vehicles we're using: personal vehicles, pickup trucks, units are that are key to our daily usage every day. We have identified those units We know those units are perfect. But more than that, heading toward that green future, for Belize, and with the savings and incentives that it provides for us is absolutely the way to go."

One Belizean motorist who has fully embraced the electric vehicle lifestyle is Ruth Esquivel. She insists that it is the best decision she made:

Ruth Esquivel - EV Owner
"Once I got it here, other benefits started rolling in. So, in terms of cost, my cost to run an EV went down 80%. And this is back gas was 9 dollars a gallon, not 12-something - I don't even know what you guys pay now in gas. But beyond just the gas cost, just in terms of maintenance, it is a Nissan, and so, any Nissan parts when I need air filters, brake pads, any of those kinds of things. It's not special order. It's the same that other vehicles run. But instead of servicing my vehicle every 3 or 4 months like I used to do, I now service it every 9 or 10 months. It is very quiet. There's no such thing as like oil change, and that sort of thing. So, under my hood looks cleaner than the bottoms of some of your feet. My car is really silent. So, I could be a ninja and sneak up on people. So, beyond just the initial reasons why I brought in my vehicle, I would never go back to a gas vehicle after the experience that I've had with my EV."

And if you think this is all marketing hype to get you to spend your hard-earned savings on a substandard product, the technical people from BEL are challenging you to do your research before writing it off.

Sean Fuller
"I just did a demo with the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor of Belize City with an application we have on our website. If you go to the website, there's an application for you to calculate what the cost savings would be to convert from a gas to an electric vehicle. It asks for 3 things, the number of miles you run in a week, the current fuel price, which is about 13 something dollars per gallon, and your fuel efficiency. And the savings shown for one year in that example that I just gave to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, was 6,800 dollars per year, only on the cost of fuel. On top of that, there's a cost-saving as it relates to the maintenance of these vehicles. So, you can see anywhere from 7 to 8 thousand per year savings. That pays for the vehicle automatically in the first 1 or 2 years."

Channel 7