10 Jan 18

Electric vehicles are coming, but is Brazil ready?

Just like laptop computers and cell phones, the cars of the future will be run on electric powered batteries. However, while countries like Germany, France, England, China, the United States, and many others are preparing for this transition, what is happening in Latin America’s largest economy, Brazil?


Besides the massive Itaipu bi-national electric power plant, Brazil’s large river basins, sunshine, and winds give it the attributes to be one of the leaders in the electric vehicle (EV) industry.


According to Itaipu engineer Celso Novais, if all cars in circulation were electrified today, there would be a 30% rise in consumption, business news daily Isto È Dinheiro reported. A transition to this extend, however, is unlikely to happen. 


On top of hydroelectric energy, the engineer feels that guaranteeing supply for the actual expected demand could be supported by thermoelectric power plants, so handing the transition looks feasible.

Brazil’s federal government, however, has not been pushing for the evolution to EV as strong as many would like. 


Currently, details of the government’s Rota 2030 program, which will set rules for the automobile industry until 2030, is being defined.


While discussions in 4Q17 pointed toward pushing automobile safety and efficiency, stimulating investments in research and development, and reducing taxes currently under the Inovar-Auto policy, not much was mentioned about stimulating the use of electric vehicles.


Much of this is due to the role that ethanol plays in the country. Almost 60% of the cars in 2016 were flex-fuel (running on both ethanol and gasoline), surpassing 35mn vehicles, according to data from the national traffic department Denatran.


Some federal lawmakers, however, started pushing EV at the turn of the new year, at least in terms of improving infrastructure. 


During the first week of January, the senate approved PLC 65/2014, a bill that obliges electric utilities to install recharging units at strategic points throughout cities.

The bill is being forwarded to Senator Flexa Ribeiro for an amendment regarding regulations on the installation of the recharging units and to the house of representatives’ infrastructure commission for final approval.


The country’s transition to EV will still need to be supported by the private sector, much like what Tesla and other automakers are doing in the United States.


According to Antonio Megal who is the president of Brazil's car manufacturers association Anfavea, local companies need to pay attention to what is being done out there and this means betting on electric, the news daily said.


Among the EVs or hybrids to be available in Brazil in 2018 are the BMW i3, Volvo XC 60 and XC 90, and Toyota Prius.

2018 BMW i3, the main full-electric model that was available in Brazil last year (CREDIT: BMW)

Authored by: Daniel Bland