A push for more electric buses in Latin America

. Dec 25, 2020
electric buses Investors and manufacturers team up to boost electric bus sales in Latin America. Photo: Zhang Sheng/Shutterstock

While China is the world’s biggest polluter, it is also that country that invests the most in renewable energy. As an example, in 2018, the metropolis of Shenzhen became the first city in the world to have its 17,000 buses and 12,600 taxis fueled purely by electricity.

Meanwhile, in Latin America, electric buses are a rarity, helping to make its largest cities some of the most polluted places in the world. Across Central and South America, there are just 1,962 electric buses, 1.95 percent of the total fleet.

</p> <p>As a way to address this shortfall, a group of 17 investors and manufacturers have banded together to fund an increase in electric buses in four of Latin America&#8217;s most populous cities: <a href="">São Paulo</a>, Santiago (Chile), Medellín (Colombia), and Mexico City.</p> <p>With an investment of USD 1 billion, the project — entitled the Zero Emission Bus Rapid-deployment Accelerator, or Zebra — would facilitate the entry of over 3,000 electric buses into circulation, an increase of 150 percent on the current fleet. Of the four cities targeted by the project, Santiago has the largest number of electric buses, with a total of 776 vehicles. São Paulo has only 217 such buses, which alone help to reduce carbon emissions by 27,000 tons per year.</p> <p>The biggest change comes in regard to the funding models for new buses, which include the participation of private investors including bus manufacturers, energy suppliers, and manufacturers of chargers, as well as external investors and banks.</p> <p>In this way, operators of bus lines do not necessarily need to purchase vehicles or charging stations outright. Other models involve the sale of electric buses, while the batteries — the most expensive component — are leased to municipal governments or bus operators.</p> <h2>Alliance of major players</h2> <p>In mid-December, Zebra organized a webinar with around 200 investors, bus manufacturers, energy companies, and government representatives from the four cities involved in the project. Among the investors includes the Inter-American Development Bank (BID), Brazil&#8217;s own development bank BNDES, electricity distributor Enel, and holding company EDP Brasil, as well as bus manufacturers BYD, Eletra, and Foton.</p> <p>Funded by P4G (Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030), Zebra was created in 2019 as a partnership between <a href="">C40 Cities</a> and the International Council of Clean Transport (ICCT).</p> <p>The companies pledged to work together to expedite changes in the region&#8217;s public transport network by introducing more and more zero-emission vehicles. They signed public declarations of intent to provide electric buses and invest in transforming fleets in the four aforementioned cities.</p> <p>“Latin America is one of the global leaders in the transition to zero-emission buses. These pledges will accelerate this change, showing that the technology and capital are available for the region to have cleaner and more sustainable cities to combat the climate emergency,&#8221; said Zebra spokesperson Thomas Maltese.</p> <p>Transport is responsible for a large part of greenhouse gas emissions in the four cities targeted by the Zebra alliance: 71% in Mexico City, 43% in Medellin, 79% in Santiago, and <a href="">61% in São Paulo</a>.</p> <p>Besides not emitting carbon gas, the operational and maintenance costs of <a href="">electric buses</a> are “significantly lower than vehicles which use fossil fuels,&#8221; according to the alliance. Zebra cites the example of Santiago, where one bus operator found that operating electric vehicles is 70 percent cheaper than diesel buses, and maintenance costs are 37 percent lower.

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Renato Alves

Renato Alves is a Brazilian journalist who has worked for Correio Braziliense and Crusoé.

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