Scientists claim melting glaciers could raise sea-levels and submerge populated islands — including Bermuda — in the process. Those same scientist say lowering greenhouse gas emissions, by replacing combustion-engine vehicles with electric, could slow or halt the process. And some islanders are taking the matter into their own hands.
Or at least that’s the thinking Current Vehicles, a rental company based in Bermuda that’s making a bid to make the entire island of Bermuda’s transportation system electric. At Tech Beach Retreat in Bermuda at the Hamilton Princess Resort, Grit Daily spoke with both cofounders, John-Paul Doughty and Piers Carr, to figure out exactly how they’ll do it.
Grit Daily: You had your own set of adventures before you launched Current Vehicles. Share those.
John-Paul Doughty: I was born and raised in Bermuda but began my career working for a global custody bank in London UK back in 2006, I then went into the insurance industry and became a broker in London. The banking crisis happened in 2008 and I moved back to Bermuda to work in insurance as many jobs in the city were under threat at the time.
Bermuda has a thriving insurance market, one of the largest in the world. After spending seven years on-island in the market, I decided I wanted a change and began working with a friend of mine who was setting up a solar installation company in Bermuda. I worked with the start-up up for two years and mainly did business development in and around commercial solar projects.
I became fascinated with the renewable energy Industry and decided to do my master’s degree in renewable energy and sustainability.
At this time Piers Carr approached me and explained his concept for a mini-car EV rental business in Bermuda. I thought it was a fascinating concept and sorely needed on the Island. At the time only gas powered scooters were available to rent. Bermuda in 2015 was in a period of tourism transition with a big push towards the Island hosting the America’s Cup in 2017.
We used this momentum to lobby our government for regulatory change so that we could rent our vehicle and build our business. In May 2017 we imported and rented our first set of 10 Renault Twizy electric cars at our first location at the Hamilton Princess Hotel and have scaled the business today to 130 vehicles across four locations with over 300 charging points. Piers still handles the day to day of the business while I have my own consultancy practice in and around sustainable and renewable infrastructure on Island. At Current Vehicles, we have an amazing team.
GD: For those inquiring minds, what does Current Vehicles do?
Piers Carr: Current Vehicles is an electric vehicle rental company that integrates with an app to provide users with local knowledge to help them best explore their environment. This includes access to pre-planned day-trips, informative audio guides, useful tips, and a curated listing of things to do and places to go. Armed with this knowledge, and one of our zippy two-seater EVs, our renters can go out and create their own adventures.
GD: Why focus on electric?
PC: Besides the environmental benefits of using a zero emission vehicle, we really like the interaction that the charging process creates. By strategically placing oasis charging stations at restaurants, beaches, galleries and hotels it encourages our customers to engage, and support, interesting local businesses while topping up their vehicle.
While the autonomy of electric vehicles is increasing to the point where charging is not necessarily required during a day out, knowing that you can get a charge at a particular restaurant may act as an incentive to stop for lunch to feed yourself, and your vehicle at the same time. Bermuda is also only 21 miles long, and surrounded by ocean, so our customers can never stray too far from a charge point.
GD: Why focus on Bermuda?
PC: Coming from Bermuda, and being extremely passionate about my home country, it was really disappointing to see the island continually underachieve as a tourism destination. It seemed to have everything going for it, the world’s best beaches, safety, cleanliness and friendliness as well as proximity to the US (90 minutes from JFK) so what was going wrong? We identified two main reasons. Firstly there was a lack of transportation options available for visitors to the island; the law prohibited rental cars so the choices were either dangerous motor scooters, expensive and sometimes unreliable taxis, or public transportation.
Secondly there was a perception that while stunningly beautiful, there was nothing to do in Bermuda. If we could provide our visitors with a safe, reliable and eco-friendly mode of transportation, and pair it with an app based advertising platform to showcase all of the hidden gems, we could make the island more accessible than ever. Our hope is that, along with all of the other extremely talented Bermudians doing great stuff in the hospitality sector, we can help tourism fulfill its true potential.
In addition, Bermuda is a great test environment for a new business, product or concept; it is a wealthy island of 60,000 discerning people with a large international business community, and almost one million tourists visiting a year. This creates a stable platform to refine a business model over time, with limited competition, before deciding if it has the potential to scale to a larger market.
JPD: Being Bermudian, it was easy to focus on Bermuda as we want tourism and transport to do well on the island. Electric vehicles make perfect sense, but also add a modern and sustainable touch to the Island’s infrastructure. Bermuda is truly an amazing place to visit, live and work. The Island is small, safe and clean with lovely people and incredible natural beauty, a good economy with a well educated and affluent society-what more could you want.
GD: Your talk at Tech Beach covered the transformation of energy. Can you give us a glimpse of our futures as it pertains to transportation?
JPD: Tech Beach was a great conference and I really enjoyed the wide range of topics that were covered by all the panels over the two days. With regards to our panel, the main focus was really how blockchain, digital assets, smart meters, EV transport and renewable energy could potentially interact in a new fintech enabled ecosystem.
Bi-directional charging technologies and smart meters could potentially allow EV’s to interconnect with the grid by both drawing energy from and returning it to the grid via Vehicle-to-Grid Technologies (V2G).
Applications of V2G potentially work very well in a small Island like Bermuda, as most drivers of EVs have a relatively short distance to travel to work, which would only use a small amount of the battery of an electric car, leaving a large amount of battery capacity for demand management to the grid but also help the utility balance the intermittency of renewables during the day through providing temporary storage.
Smart meters could potentially provide the conduit for the EV owner to be compensated for the grid’s use of their stored electricity.
Think of EVs now as versatile easy to move and store electricity amongst several different sources and off-takers.
Smart-meters and applications like micro-grids represent a more efficient and decentralized energy model for the future. Large grid networks have inherent problems which have become cumbersome disadvantages to the modern utility. In addition, the application of smart meters could create a new ecosystem for fin-tech that facilitates innovative ways to finance and trade energy resources that will benefit the consumer and foster growth in the financing of sustainable infrastructure.