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Cruz Bay
Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Dec. 8, 2001 – Doug White ignited interest Saturday when he and a band of several dozen supporters pushed his solar-powered electric car around the streets of Cruz Bay. Afterward, he planned to spend the rest of the day with the car in Cruz Bay Park collecting signatures on his petition asking Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to allow registration of electric vehicles.
"Free E-V-1," the demonstrators chanted.
"E-V" stands for electric vehicle. Unless someone else gets to the Motor Vehicle Bureau first, if and when the government finally legalizes such cars, White's car will carry the "number 1" tag for the first one registered.
White and St. John resident Jeannie Williamson organized Saturday's "Protest Push" to bring attention to the government's refusal to let him register his 1,200-pound car. He has tried for more than 1½ years to convince the Motor Vehicle Bureau that the car is suitable for low-speed driving areas.
"This car is licensed in 37 states. Why shouldn't the Virgin Islands register it? We need it more than most places," St. John resident Sylvia Weaver said.
While White said he still plans to present his petition to the governor, he has already won at least one supported in the Legislature. Sen. Lorraine Berry said on Wednesday that she is having a bill drafted to allow the use of alternative-energy vehicles.
White said he would drive the car only in low-speed areas such as Cruz Bay, not on major highways. The cars have a maximum speed of 25 mph; the speed limit in "town" areas is 20 mph. Lawrence Olive, Motor Vehicle Bureau director, has said that if the government allowed registration of electric vehicles, it would have to be for use on all roads.
St. John resident Raymond Garriges said that Palm Desert, Calif., allows street use of golf carts, which are similar in size to White's GEM electric car. "They even have golf cart lanes," he said.
Linda Sorensen, who lives on St. John, said she joined Saturday's protest because she is concerned about the environment. "It would be good for the world if more of these cars were used," she said. If there is wider support for using cars that rely on developing technology, she added, manufacturers will continue their research to make even better cars.
St. John resident Paul Devine said that when he lived in Boston, he worked on a project that included setting up recharging stations for electric cars on the Massachusetts Turnpike, at state parks and on Cape Cod. "Charging is the key," he said.
White customized his car by installing a solar panel on the top, reducing the need for plugging it into a commercial power source for recharging.
A St. Thomas resident whose work as an architect frequently takes him to St. John, White said he was happy at the turnout. He said he was pleased that Williamson set up the "Protest Push" for St. John because he finds the community receptive to new ideas.
A precedent for registering non-conventional vehicles already has been set on St. John. Resident Doris Jadan drives a golf cart around Cruz Bay. She had no trouble registering the vehicle as a motorcycle initially in 1979, but police officials started giving her trouble in the early 1990s. After she gathered 700 signatures on a petition asking that she continue to be allowed to register the car, police relented.
However, Olive told the Source recently that when Jadan's golf cart dies, she won't be allowed to register a replacement. He said her cart was "grandfathered in" to current regulations but no more such vehicles would be permitted. Jadan could not be reached for comment.

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