17 nov 21

Uruguay, the Norway of Latin America?

Latin America is not known for being a trendsetter in the shift from internal combustion engines (ICE) to electric vehicles (EV) but Uruguay could lead the movement in the region much like Norway in Europe.

Since the turn of the century, Uruguay has been dramatically pushing electricity generation via renewable resources, often seeing a surplus in electricity nowadays due to its significant amount of wind power.

According to the Ministry of Industry, this surplus can be used for electric or hydrogen-powered transportation, and this has spurred government programs with tax incentives and subsidies to promote the adoption of electric powered passenger cars, light commercial vehicles (LCV) and buses.

To support this, state-run energy company UTE is building a robust charging station network in the country. Besides seeking to have at least one charging station in each of Uruguay’s 19 departments, UTE is looking to double its existing network of 140 points over the short-term and eventually equipping the country with a charge point every 50km.

Among the legislative measures adopted or very much on their way include importing EVs duty free, allowing the private sector to install public charging points, and working on regulatory proposals concerning the use, re-use and disposal of vehicle batteries.

The country also aims to start issuing clean energy certificates at the start of 2022, something that many multinationals in Uruguay are already requiring. Collectively, these incentives will heavily push the EV market, a trend which has already taken place in Norway.

Despite this, there are not many EV suppliers in Uruguay, and this opens up opportunities for many companies. One automaker, Volkswagen, has opted to choose Uruguay as the first country in Latin America to receive its portfolio of fully electric-powered models. "I want to congratulate the public policy of decades in Uruguay. I have seen few countries in Latin America that have the renewable energy that Uruguay has: it is a public policy and a strategic vision that was launched several decades ago," local paper MercoPress quoted VW South America CEO Pablo Di Si as saying. (pictured left).

With that said, EV manufacturers and companies involved in electric transportation should ready themselves, keeping in mind that EVs sold in Uruguay have type 2 connectors, according to UNIT standards. 

Norway has some 5.4 million people and approximately 78% of the new cars sold in the country are EVs. With a population of only 3.5 million, Uruguay is also a small country so its own transition may not be too difficult. Infrastructure looks to be falling in place and a larger selection of vehicles will likely follow shortly.   

Volkswagen e-up being charged in Norway, a scene more commonly expected in Uruguay and South America in the years to come (copyright: Shutterstock)

For more on car manufacturer strategies across the globe, including electrification, download Global Fleet’s latest e-book on the subject. 

photo of VW South America CEO Pablo Di Si (source: Volkswagen)
Top Photo illustration (source: Shutterstock)

Authored by: Daniel Bland