The electric public transport system in Latin America

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The international commitments of the United Nations Agenda 2030 have forced governments to rethink public mobility policy around the world. The change in public transport systems to electric units has put on the table the importance of China as an exporter of these units and the demand for global oil demand in the long term.


According to Bloomberg, each electric bus saves 0.5 barrels of oil per day. According to the International Energy Agency, there were 460,000 electric buses in the world at the end of 2018, with an annual saving of 82.8 million barrels. The price of an electric bus, on average, is $540 thousand dollars and a diesel bus $450 thousand, but the savings in oil is $155,000 dollars in a twelve-year life at $71 dollars b/d. The infrastructure of placing electric charging stations increases the costs of changing the fleet. In the long term, as more units enter circulation and batteries become less pricey, these should go down. The problem of replacement lies in whether oil prices remain below $30 per barrel beyond 2020.


China holds 95% of the total electric buses made in the world. Since 2011, the change of energy matrix is a Chinese public goal, becoming the leading producer and consumer of electric vehicles in the world in 2014. It is also at the forefront of this global trade, with 1,520 buses exported in 2018, followed by the U.S. which with 859 units is the second-largest exporter, manufactured by a Chinese company in California.


In Latin America, the use of electric buses is still incipient. However, Chile began plans to electrify mass transport when it pledged at COP25 to have 100% of its fleet electrified by 2024 and created the Ruta Energética 2018 - 2022 initiative. At the end of 2018, 100 vehicles arrived, and there are another 183 operating in Santiago since 2019.


By the end of 2020, Colombia would like to be the country with more electric buses in the region. The Electricity and Sustainable Mobility Law of July 2019 should make Bogotá the city with the largest electric fleet, with 483 units. Cali already has 26 units and Medellín 64. By law, the national government, category one municipalities (with 700,001 to 2,000,000 inhabitants), and specialized municipalities, except for Tumaco and Buenaventura, must comply with a 30% quota of electric vehicles purchased or contracted annually by mid-2020.


Sao Paulo has 15 buses in motion since the end of 2019 produced at the BYD plant in Campinas, which aims to manufacture buses for the entire country. The solar park in Araçatuba is the energy source for the vehicle chargers. Under Law Number 16,802 of the State of Sao Paulo, the mass transport system must gradually reduce to zero the emissions of pollutants. Similarly, on Feb. 13, 2020, the Brazilian Senate's Constitution and Justice Commission approved a law that bans the sale of gasoline and diesel-powered cars by 2040. With this, it wants to position itself as the country with the most significant regional electromobility in competition with Chile and Colombia.


In Guayaquil, Ecuador, 20 units are operating since March 2019 with an investment of US$400,000 per unit financed by the National Financial Corporation under the Electric Mobility Plan. The company BYD, at the end of 2019, built an electric charging station there to recharge buses and taxis. The purchase of 300 electric buses for Quito, however, is on hold due to the problems caused by the COVID. With the reform of the Energy Efficiency Law, from 2025, no diesel vehicles will be incorporated into the mass transport system in Ecuador.


Tests began in Buenos Aires with eight units in May 2019, and Mendoza already has 12 units in operation since July 2019. In Mexico City, 40 electric buses are operating since November 2019. In the Strategy document for electromobility in Mexico City 2018 – 2030, there are plans to buy in this period 3,390 electric buses to cover 29 trunk lines that include 500 km of mass transport. In San Jose, Costa Rica, the first 12 German electric buses will arrive by the end of 2020. In Montevideo, Uruguay, there are also tests with ten vehicles in circulation.


There are 54 manufacturers of electric and hybrid buses in the world, led by BYD and Yutong. The world bus market will grow 27.2% per year, particularly in the Asia Pacific region in the coming decade, affecting long-term demand for oil. This energy shift will be the new impetus for the growth of the world economy in the 21st century. It will also be an issue of confrontation between the United States and China; and of Latin America with the United States.


Num.13, Year 2020, May 6th 2020


- Oscar Ugarteche, Researcher "C", IIEc-UNAM, SNI III Conacyt, coordinator of

- Carlos de León, Faculty of Economics, UNAM, Member of


Source: OBELA, Observatorio Económico Latinoamericano
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