Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine says his ministry has purchased a hybrid vehicle, as it considers options other than having motorists convert from gasoline and diesel to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to help reduce the multibillion dollar fuel subsidy.
He made the disclosure in an interview with TV6 News last night.
TV6 News met the Energy Minister last week to discuss the Toyota Prius Hybrid which was recently purchased by the Energy Ministry.
"There is no need to plug in that vehicle. The motion of the wheels as that car moves charges a battery and at the opportune time when the battery is charged, the vehicle switches to the battery," Ramnarine said.
But there is a catch—hybrid cars which use technology to help reduce the number of times a motorist needs to fill up at the gas station are not cheap.
"Interestingly, the foreign used dealers have informed us that it is possible for them to bring in foreign used hybrid vehicles. So that is information that we will explore," Ramnarine said.
He said he held discussions with new car and foreign-used car dealers on the matter.
A pamphlet distributed by the Energy Ministry stated the Toyota Prius Hybrid and the Honda Civic hybrid both cost $400,000.
The pamphlet also said the government was now negotiating incentives with the new car and foreign used dealers to lower that price for motorists
While the Government's stated goal is to have motorists convert to compressed natural gas (CNG), Ramnarine said it is not ignoring the potential of hybrid vehicles.
On October 2, a national debate on the fuel subsidy was triggered when the price of premium gasoline rose from $4 to $5.75 per litre as part of a planned reduction in the subsidy for fiscal 2013.
Finance Minister Larry Howai told the House of Representatives last week during its debate on the 2012/2013 budget that the fuel subsidy cost the State $3.74 billion in fiscal 2012.
Opposition MP Colm Imbert and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley questioned whether increasing the price of premium gasoline would really help lower the fuel subsidy, as they noted the majority of motorists use super gasoline and diesel which account for the majority of the subsidy.
Referring to the hybrid car purchased by the Energy Ministry, Ramnarine said: "There are three other hybrids in Trinidad which are vehicles which were brought to Trinidad by returning nationals. So this is the first hybrid to be purchased in Trinidad & Tobago. The vehicle behind you, I am advised, it gets about 50 miles to the gallon and it's equivalent would get about 30 miles to the gallon."
Ramnarine said, as such, there is much more fuel efficiency with the hybrid car.
He said the Government was also exploring the use of hybrid buses for mass public transport.