Fiji joins electric vehicle revolution

Switch Network Founder and Director of Leaf Capital PTE Limited, Alex Reddaway during the launch at the Kundan Singh Service Station. Picture: ATU RASEA

Fiji’s first fully electric taxi, owned by Vesi Taxis, was showcased this Thursday, alongside the official launch of the first local charging network to support electric vehicles (EVs).

The Switch Network was conceptualised only a few months ago by Leaf Capital Pte Ltd that has sought to bring e-mobility to Fiji since inception in 2021.

Switch Network founder and director of Leaf Capital Alex Reddaway said his vision was to help Fiji be a leader in the world by establishing the world’s first carbon-negative charging network.

There are three charging docks in the country at present, the first to be launched being the dock at the Kundan Singh complex in Tamavua.

In an interview, Mr Reddaway said the company intended to install 135 kilowatts worth of solar panels at the Kundan Singh complex in order to power both the charger and the complex.

He said few places face the challenges that Fiji does in order to acquire fossil fuels and his intention was to create a system that accelerated the adoption of renewable energy.

Champions of clean, renewable, sustainable development

The project is backed by the Blue Accelerator Grant Scheme (BAGS) funded by the UNDP.

Deputy resident representative UNDP Yemesrach Workie said the UNDP was delighted to be working with the Fiji Government to support transformative initiatives by businesses such as Leaf Capital, and they were also grateful for the British government’s support.

“The Pacific, like most developing island states, faces multiple complex challenges, not only confronting and being at the forefront of climate change and the climate crisis, but also overburdened with the financial implications of continuously never-ending disasters, recently the COVID crisis,” Ms Workie said.

As such, she believes the switch to renewable energy and the reduced financial strain of e-mobility comes at an opportune time for the country.

She said the Switch Network was a project of many firsts and the UNDP applauded the commercial businesses that have collaborated with Leaf Capital by offering their premises to host the charging stations.

“Your support in this regard exemplifies how the private sector can be a champion of clean, renewable, sustainable development.”

Climate change mitigation specialist Ranjila Singh expressed her support of the initiative, and said it would bring Fiji into the global shift towards e-mobility.

She said Fiji must continue to build on that momentum.

Future-proof to the max

Mr Reddaway plans to bring more clients and companies into the fold including bus and taxi networks, and banks for “a system that’s future-proof to the max”.

The company plans to release an app that allows customers to upload their bank information, allowing them to simply scan the QR codes on the chargers in order to pay.

The app will also have a map of the locations of all the public charging stations.

This app is expected to release in a month.

Another charging station is almost ready to launch in Maui Bay and there are plans to have one in Nadi by the end of October.

One at Mana Coffee in Suva is ready and awaiting its official launch.

Mr Reddaway continues to seek additional funding in the hopes of providing for the tourism sector.

The company intends to track power usage of the e-taxi and place GPS tracking systems to complement this, in order to compile a data sheet to draw in more sponsors and partners.

Depending on the battery specifications of each EV, charging and use times may differ but the e-taxi that is piloting this initiative takes about 25 minutes to be fully charged, giving the vehicle about a 150 kilometer use.

Mr Reddaway expects this to cost about $12.

There are plans to have five chargers up and running by the end of 2022, and 15 to 20 by the end of 2023.

 

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