The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) held a webinar entitled Production Capacity of Electric Buses in Latin America on June 9, 2022. During the webinar, which was carried out in Portuguese and Spanish, participants discussed the production structure for electric buses in Latin American countries, with the aim of identifying installed production capacities, opportunities and bottlenecks, along with the national and regional sector’s prospects for growth. In addition to presenting technical analyses done by industry experts from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, the web seminar also fostered discussion and exchange among automotive industry leaders on their viewpoints regarding progress and challenges related to the transition to electromobility in the region.
The webinar was held in the framework of the Inclusive, Sustainable and Smart Cities (ISSC) Program, developed by ECLAC in cooperation with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) of Germany, through German Technical Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit - GIZ). The ISSC Program has the objective of contributing technically to the sustainable development of urban connectivity in Latin America. It focuses on some of the main cities in the region, including Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and São Paulo.
Álvaro Calderón, Head of ECLAC’s Innovation and New Technologies Unit, along with Manfred Haebig, Coordinator of the ECLAC-BMZ/GIZ Program, began the webinar by reflecting on the context of crisis that Latin America is living through, which has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Álvaro Calderón, the opportunity presented by electromobility and the expansion of local production capacities can create a virtuous circle capable of generating sustainable economic growth in the region. The Coordinator of the ECLAC-BMZ/GIZ Program, Manfred Haebig, reaffirmed the importance of the ISSC Program for promoting dialogue and analyses that seek out solutions for quality public transportation and a desirable future for Latin America’s population.
Immediately afterward, Camila Gramkow (Economic Affairs Officer at ECLAC’s Office in Brazil) presented the Big Push for Sustainability approach, based on the coordination and articulation of policies to mobilize investments that would transform the development pattern. In this approach, the set of complementary and incremental investments needed for the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable and inclusive economic model can act as a Big Push for the recovery of economic growth with productive inclusion. According to Gramkow, sustainable mobility and, in particular, the electrification of buses represents one of the great opportunities for the Big Push for Sustainability in Latin American countries, since it contributes to creating a virtuous circle of economic growth, efficiency, and reduction of pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, with positive impacts on health, quality of life, productivity and competitiveness.
On the webinar’s first panel, consultants for ECLAC and experts on the automotive sector and sustainability – Martín Quiroga (Argentina), Cristina Vázquez (Mexico), Juan Pablo Bocarejo (Colombia) and Robson Cruz (Brazil) – contributed technical analyses, assessments and perspectives on sustainable mobility and the production of buses with electric technology in each country. According to the expert from Argentina, there is a progressive tendency towards the decarbonization of this sector and, in scenarios of renovating the bus fleet, electric technology could be one of the main solutions. However, Martín Quiroga emphasizes the relatively low average age of the current fleet, the high cost of acquisition, the infrastructure requirements and the lack of financing for a renovation of this kind. On the other hand, there are enabling factors, including the maturity of Argentina’s national automotive industry, retrofit-related experiences and the capacity for adaptation and promotion that can facilitate the transition to electromobility in the country.
With regard to Mexico, specialist Cristina Vázquez presented an overview of the automotive industry in that country, which, despite ranking No. 9 in the world in bus production, does not have a national industry for producing buses with electric technology. However, various Chinese companies are present in the country and, via imports, bring options for this bus to the market. Since 2017, 556 units of this technology for urban transportation have been imported. Although a progressive transition to electromobility in the medium to long term can be expected in the country, according to the expert, cross-cutting development policies are needed.
Meanwhile, Colombian specialist Juan Pablo Bocarejo presented the dynamics of and prospects for the Colombian low-emissions bus industry. According to the expert, the national goals are ambitious: by 2035, 100% of the vehicles purchased for public transportation systems must be zero emission. The Colombian industry is typically characterized by assembly, meaning the chassis of buses are imported, primarily from Brazil, while the body is produced nationally. In his analysis, although Colombia has become a regional leader in the operation of electric and gasoline-powered buses, the costs are still high and policies are needed to strengthen the chain and the domestic productive fabric of the country.
Concluding the panel on technical analysis, Robson Cruz, a specialist in Brazil, shared data that demonstrates that country’s leadership in the global production of buses and its relevant role for the export market in Latin America. The robustness of the installed productive and technological competencies in the country for producing diesel-powered buses is, in his estimation, a favorable factor for producing buses with electric technology. However, Cruz warned about the cost of batteries as a challenge, along with the need to adapt the supply chain and the parameters for maintenance and operation of these new buses.
The second part of the webinar featured the participation of industry leaders: Luiz Carlos Moraes (Vice President of the National Association of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers – ANFAVEA) and Ignacio Armendáriz (Business Manager of Agrale in Argentina). In this roundtable discussion, moderated by Edgar Barassa (a consultant for ECLAC), industry leaders shared their views on progress and challenges related to the transition to electromobility in the region, from an industry perspective.
The guests commented on the prospects for the production capacity of electric buses in Brazil and Argentina in the short, medium and long term and on the need to implement active public polices to develop the chain of electric buses. Industry leaders reflected on the opportunities for regional integration of value chains, citing batteries as a possible component with the potential for local development, given the lithium reserves available and the capacity for technological development in the region.
The webinar, which was moderated by Gabriela Oliveira (a consultant for ECLAC’s Office in Brazil), enabled the presentation and discussion of technical information and strategic perspectives regarding the challenges, opportunities and major trends for the transformation of urban transportation and the production of buses with low carbon emissions in Latin American countries.
A recording of the web seminar is available at:
https://youtu.be/j5ZdWCVCDmw – Portuguese
https://youtu.be/wegGTHh7v1c – Spanish
The presentations can be found in the attached files on the side menu.