The owner of Samoana Rentals, Leiataua James Arp believes that hybrid cars are ideal for Samoa.
Last year, Samoana Rentals scored a first, by bringing the first electric car into Samoa, the Nissan Leaf.
“I have both an electric car and the hybrid car,” he told the Samoa Observer.
“The hybrid car can run on either electricity or petrol.
Leiataua explained that they ‘landed the 2011 model hybrid here for over 32,000 tala and that included duty, freight, wharfage, handling, quarantine and all other fees.’
“A fully electrical car on the other hand was more than $50,000.”
“The hybrid car is ideal for Samoa, and I can tell you from what we found, from 0 to 40km an hour, the engine is run on battery.
“Then from 40km up it kicks in the engine then the engine carries on from the electric and starts charging the battery.”
“That is how it works.”
He went on to say that ‘hybrid cars don’t go over the 40km so most of the time you travel you’re only using the battery.
“Other countries have found it perfect for taxis so as the government is trying to introduce both vehicles, I just want to let the public know that a perfect vehicle for Samoa is the hybrid.
“They come in six seater vans, Toyota Camrys, Honda Pres, and other models like Nissan.
“I am not sure what the cost of the hybrid is now, because the government has just introduced their new systems at Customs, but if the government is serious about the renewable energy and the cost of the energy and everything, they have to do something about the duty.”
Leiataua also said that they bought a 2012 Nissan Leaf second hand electric car to Samoa.
“Its landing costs which includes freight cost, handling, wharfage and other miscellaneous fees is over $50,000.
He added that from his own view as businessman, he has problem with electric car.
“First it doesn’t have an engine, because the duty then was based on the year of the car and the size of the engine, but it doesn’t have an engine - it’s a battery-operated vehicle.
“But since Customs haven’t got a category for this car because it doesn’t have an engine, so there’s nothing to categorise their duty and I ended up in paying more duty on the electric car than a normal vehicle.
“But I have heard since the beginning of this year, the structure of the duty has now been changed and is based on the structure of the invoice (duty).
“Therefore it doubles the price of the duty for the same vehicle compared to last year.
He said that the Samoana Rentals brought in the electric car in Samoa to see if it was ‘feasible here in Samoa’.
“It’s very good, however the charging stations haven’t set up by the government to charge these cars so therefore we can’t rent out electric car to the tourists because we don’t have charging stations like they do in Auckland.
“In New Zealand they have charging stations everywhere.
“Even McDonalds have them. You charge your car while you go and have food, and they’re all free everywhere in New Zealand. The reason for that is to try and encourage people to bring in electric cars.
“In Samoa, people won’t import any cars if we haven’t got any charging stations in Upolu, the airport, at the wharf, Aleipata, Siumu, Falealili. We need to have those in place before people seriously think of bringing electric cars.
“There is no way people will start bringing in those electric car if they don’t have those charging stations. It’s like the old problem...what comes first?...chicken or the egg?
“The range is short, it’s 120 km per (fully) charge and I believe by the next generation it will be 300km range.
“That will be good, tourists can travel around the island and then charge up in Upolu and there should be a charging station in all the hotels.
“It’s very cheap, charging the car is very cheap. To fully charge the electric car it is approximately $15-$16 compared to the petrol one.
One of the officials at the Customs who spoke to Samoa Observer on condition of anonymity said that the cost of the duty is based on the original cost of the vehicle.
Last week, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi in his weekly programme with Talamua, says that some countries have set 2020 while other 2030 as a deadline to convert to electric vehicles in their respective countries.
Other countries have also set similar deadlines for hybrid vehicles only, added Tuilaepa.
And while the electrical and hybrid vehicles are environmentally friendly, the Prime Minister noted that they are also very expensive with a price tag of 200-thousand tala per hybrid car. The Prime Minister says that he is not blind to the looming change and he has shared his thoughts with his Revenue Minister on how best to address the importation of hybrid and electrical cars in the coming years.
One option which the Prime Minister is eyeing is a range of duty concessions to encourage car dealership to import the new brand vehicles.
And while it is not an urgent issue, Tuilaepa says that one thing is for sure, Samoa will have little say in the matter but to follow suit if other countries proceed with the change to electrical and hybrid vehicles.