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Electrifying rides - Porteon plans 2012 electric car roll-out in Jamaica

Published:Sunday | December 4, 2011 | 12:00 AM
The Porteon four-seater - Contributed
A concept drawing of a sporty-looking Porteon car.
An artist'c concept drawing of a Porteon truck.

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

Porteon literally stood apart from the other motor vehicle brands at the Wealth Auto Show on November 26 and 27. While many displays were set up on the open floor of the National Arena, St Andrew, Porteon's booth was on a balcony.

However, even away from the main area, Porteon got tremendous attention. Especially for a company without a model available for persons to test drive, the pictures they had available studied keenly over and over. If the company has its way, the actual vehicles will be on Jamaica's roads by next year and the calculation will not be miles per gallon, but kilometres per charge, done by plugging in to any 110 or 220 volt outlet.

Rhone Kelly of Porteon Electric Vehicles, based in Oregon, USA, said that the vehicles are built on a chassis which starts at "the size of a Mini Cooper or Suzuki Swift". However, adjustments can be made and "we can go to the size of a Dyno truck". The maximum capacity vehicle that they have done is a one ton.

Porteon vehicles are limited to a top speed of 75 kph (approximately 47 mph), Kelly explaining that "we built them to go around city areas, which normally have a low speed limit". There is a safety factor as well, as the vehicles have been designed to be safe on impact at a particular top speed. Increasing that speed would require that other equipment and air bags be installed. Without the limiter a Porteon vehicle can go up to 160 kph.

Built to be light

They are built to be light. If it gets hit it does not stay and get crushed. It moves," Kelly said. He points out that they are good on hills, with "more torque than gas engines".

As they are, Porteon vehicles have the standard damper zones, roll bars and seatbelts. Kelly said the aluminum chassis is very hard and the vehicles use a "race car equivalent independent suspension". Regular tyres and rims are used and Porteon employs a four-wheel disc hydraulic-braking system. Each vehicle has a three-year warranty.

A single charge takes a Porteon electric vehicle 130 kilometres (approximately 80 miles) and Kelly said "the amount of energy it takes to run the car per month is equivalent to adding an extra fridge to your house, about $3,000". And this is driving the full 130 km per day.

Prices are project to start at $1.4 million for a four-seater car (including the driver).

As part of the move into the region, Kelly said the company is setting up a plant in Viewfort, St Lucia, from which Porteon Caribbean will operate. "Our product is made to be assembled easily. Our method is to assemble the vehicle in the destination. That is our production model, to decentralise and have many assembly plants," Kelly said. The intention is to approach the Jamaican authorities in the first quarter of 2012.

Among the markets Porteon will target in Jamaica are security companies, maintenance of school campuses and persons who drive in a defined area on a regular basis.

"If you live in Ocho Rios and work in Kingston this is not for you," Kelly said.