29 Oct 19

Electric vehicles on the rise in Colombia, but challenges remain

The electric vehicle fleet in Colombia is growing but what is holding back consumer demand is their initial cost, range anxiety, and a lack of infrastructure.

Between 2011 and 2018, approximately 3,200 electrified vehicles were sold in the country. While 80% of them were either full-electric vehicles (BEV) or hybrids (HEV), the newer plug-in hybrids (PHEV) made up about 20% of the market.

By July 2019, however, a total of 22,874 electrified vehicles were registered in the country and only 203 were BEV, according to local news service ElectronicosOnline, showing that much more needs to be done by the Colombian government to persuade its citizens to buy more full-electric cars.

Besides the initial price and the need for infrastructure, improved vehicle range is needed, according to Fleet LatAm advisory board member Francisco Fuentes who is also commercial manager for Avis in Colombia. "Fleet owners are interested in electric vehicles but they are just waiting for things to change," Mr. Fuentes said in an interview.

Among the best-selling brands in the country are Renault and BMW (BEV), Kia and Audi (HEV), and Mercedes Benz (PHEV). Priced at nearly double a comparative internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, acquiring one of these cars really only starts to pay off if driving more than 7,000km per month, especially since Colombia is home to some of the cheapest gasoline in Latin America (US$.072 per liter - October 2019).

full-electric (BEV) 2019 Renault Zoe (source: Shutterstock) 

In terms of recharging infrastructure, a total of 55 recharging facilities are available in Bogota, an insufficient network considering the number of electrified vehicles in the area and a population of 7.18 million.

Moreover, with the local government planning to deploy 64 new electric buses for collective transport, the need for recharging will increase even more. They are being provided by Chinese manufacturer BYD.

The situation may be even worse in Colombia’s second largest city Medellin (2.55 million residents). It only has four recharging stations and almost all of them are exclusively used by the 43 electric taxis operating in the city, the news service said.

For the time being, to help serve demand, local citizens have been creating social media groups aimed at pushing the idea of sharing recharging infrastructure in homes and apartments.

As we can see, challenges do remain but the tide is turning in South America's third largest automobile market so expect to see more electrified vehicles in the years to come.

"By 2020, we may be adding EVs to our portfolio. This, however, will be more to gain experience and knowledge about these cars," says Mr. Fuentes.

Authored by: Daniel Bland