With 483 electric buses, Bogota has the largest sustainabñe fleet in the region
Electric-powered transport is still in its infancy in Latin America, with just a few thousand EVs circulating in the region. Most are used by corporate or government entities, taxis or public transport. Barely a few hundred are privately owned.
At the same time, many of its cities have severe pollution problems and a large part of its fleets is formed by old, inefficient, and fossil fuel-consuming vehicles and buses that constitute the largest and fastest-growing source of polluting emissions in the energy sector.
A report prepared by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Inter-American Dialogue observes great potential for this industry in Latin America. Nonetheless, that potential fades due to a set of obstacles that must be overcome, including the high costs of sales and the lack of infrastructure for battery charging. There is also concern regarding grid capacity and competition from other related industries. Additionally, there is a lack of economic incentives and the restrictive use of roads and avenues.
In spite of this, the study notes that Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and Chile are the most advanced in terms of the utilization and penetration of green vehicles. This is the result of a series of sound public and private policies that serve as an example for other countries.
Colombia’s Law for Electric Mobility
With the timid expansion of its non-polluting fleet, which includes automobiles, motorcycles, and buses, Colombia has positioned itself as the first Latin American country with this eco-friendly technology in the public transportation sector.
Chile kicked off its plans to electrify mass transport back when it committed to having a 100% electric fleet by 2024, during the COP25, and created the 2018-2020 Energy Route initiative. The Fiscal Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean indicated that, by late 2018, the country imported 100 electric vehicles, with another 183 operating in Santiago since 2019.
Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and Chile are the most advanced in the region in terms of promoting green vehicles.
However, Colombia is the country with the largest amount of electric buses in the region. And Bogota is the Colombian city with the largest electric fleet, with 483 units. Meanwhile, Cali has 26 units and Medellín has 64.
The recently passed Law for Electric and Sustainable Mobility establishes that by July 2020 the Government, category 1 municipalities (700,001 to 2,000,000 people) and special municipalities, except for Tumaco and Buenaventura, should meet a 30% quota of electric vehicles.
In Brazil, Sao Paulo has 15 electric buses operating since late 2019. The units were produced at the BYD Campinas plant, which makes buses for the entire nation. On February 13, amid a global health crisis, the Senate’s Constitution and Justice Committee approved a law that will ban sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. With this, the government of Jair Bolsonaro is aiming to position Brazil as the country with the highest electromobility in the region, competing with Chile and Colombia.
Security and high tech at the service of citizens
Transmilenio S.A. transportation Company awarded a contract to supply and operate 379 electric buses made by Chinese manufacturer BYD, which are part of the Integrated Public Transport System.
Juan Mesa, CEO of BYD in Colombia, highlighted the work done by the Bogota City Hall and strategic allies to award the contract for this high tech, 100% electric, zero-emissions fleet.
“This is a historic step for the city and the country. It represents very important progress for the improvement of the Colombian capital’s massive transport system, healthcare, and environment.”
BYD buses, which sit between 80 and 50 passengers, meet national and international security regulations. They are equipped with internal and external security cameras, facial recognition systems for the drivers, an elevator for passengers with reduced mobility, and are universally accessible (including for users with sight and hearing impairments). The units also have USB ports, Wi-Fi, an electronic counter of passengers entering and leaving the vehicle, and audio and video equipment to display institutional information and the system’s Radial Emission Center, and more.
The units’ iron phosphate battery enables a driving range 260 kilometers with just one charge, enough to complete one day of operations without the need for additional recharges. Also, these units can get a full charge in less than two hours.
The buses are noise, vibration, and emissions-free, compared with similar units with internal combustion systems. During the first year of operations, the fleet is estimated to prevent the emission of 21,900 tons of CO2 a year and 526 kilograms of PM 2.5 polluting particles. As to the costs, it will be 60% cheaper than combustion buses.
Among Latin American countries, Colombia has been at the forefront in its efforts to implement sustainable transport. In 2012, seeking to mitigate the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, the nation adopted the Colombian Low Carbon Development Strategy (ECDBC in Spanish), part of the National Development Plan. Since then, the efforts made by the government of Ivan Duque to face climate change have primarily focused on the transport sector.
Colombia has indicated that the electrification of the country’s transport fleet, including buses and taxis, is among its priorities and, as a result, it has one of the largest electric taxi fleets in Latin America and a pilot project for the development of electric buses.
Although many obstacles persist, the efforts made provide a solid ground on which to expand the use of and adoption of these vehicles. Given that hydropower accounts for 75% of power generation, the electrification of the transport fleet can result in a significant reduction of greenhouse gases.
The first electric vehicles were introduced in this country back in 2012, when power companies Codensa and Emgesa associated with Mitsubishi to test a 15-vehicle fleet of the model I-MIEV.9. That year, Bogota launched a pilot plan to test electric taxis in association with Codensa, the civil society, and local taxi companies. The participating taxi companies tested Mitsubishi’s I-MIEV and BYD’s E6. The E6 was selected for a 43-unit electric fleet unit.
Chinese EV manufacturers have conquered a continuously expanding market.
The Renault Kangoo, a small van, and the Renault Twizy, a two-passenger vehicle, were incorporated into the market in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The BMW i3 and Nissan LEAF arrived in Colombia in 2015; late that year, there were already 126 EVs in the streets, 25 of which belong to private owners, while the rest is owned by corporate entities.
In-house green production
In order to reduce their carbon footprint, Latin American governments are implementing –maybe not with the necessary speed – measures to encourage EV consumption. These initiatives include three Latin American electric vehicles. A Bolivian car manufactured by Quantum, a Brazilian car manufactured by Santa Catarina in collaboration with Mobilis, and an Argentinian car made by Sero Electric.
Also, Mexico has considered building a Chinese EV plant. Meanwhile, JAC has plans to produce this type of vehicle in a plant located in Hidalgo.
For more information, check Energía16