Letter from South America: electric buses rolling in Chile, Colombia and Ecuador

Electric buses are on a roll worldwide, thanks to their compelling economic and environmental benefits. South America, which is rapidly urbanizing, heavily dependent on bus transit and plagued by air pollution, is emerging as a major market for e-buses.

According to Intelligent Transport, South American bus networks transport nearly 13 times more passengers than European ones do. Naturally, this dependence on transit buses makes them one of the main producers of tailpipe emissions – in 2010, an estimated 64,000 people died prematurely in Latin America due to particulate matter and NOx emissions.

In 2018, 271 electric buses were delivered in Latin America. BYD currently has the largest market share in the region, with a presence in 5 out of the 8 cities which currently operate e-buses.

Santiago, Chile boasts the largest electric bus fleet outside of China. The capital has deployed 386 electric buses from Chinese builders BYD and Yutong, along with chargers from Enel X, and plans to electrify all its buses by 2050.

The Colombian daily El Tiempo reports that a deputation from the transit agency for Bogotá recently visited Santiago to learn more about electrification strategies. Bogotá has solicited proposals to supply 594 electric buses. Other Colombian cities are also getting charged: Cali will deploy a fleet of 125 e-buses this year, and Medellin has ordered 64 BYD buses. Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, launched a fleet of 20 electric buses in March.

It’s not just buses that are electrifying. El Tiempo reports that electric utility Electricaribe has added several electric service vans to its fleet in Barranquilla. Colombia offers several tax and financial incentives to stimulate EV sales, and private electrified vehicles are beginning to hit the streets. According to El Tiempo, sales have grown from a mere 196 units in 2017 to 1,674 in 2019 (through September). (It’s not clear whether these figures include hybrids.) The majority of Colombia’s electrified vehicles are from Kia, BMW and Renault.

Source: El Tiempo