Author: Juan Diego Celemín Mojica
“Passionate about all things Latin American, I have been closely following transitions in energy and mobility since they began to appear south of the equator.”
If you missed part 1 and part 2 of this series, check it out: South American Plugin Vehicle Markets, Brief Overview — Part 1: Argentina, Peru and Ecuador and South America Plugin Vehicle Markets, Overview — Part 2: Chile and Brazil.
The smallest of all, Uruguay normally competes with Chile for the “most developed country in Latin America” badge. However, in this case it is safe to say that even though Uruguay has a more significant EV market, Chile has much better information available. In all my research I have not been able to find any specific data for Uruguay and nothing regarding the numbers for 2022. Only general numbers are given. However, it positions the country as the second best – perhaps even the best – EV market in the region.
It is good to point out that Uruguay’s electricity generation is largely based on wind power, hydropower and biomass power, making it almost carbon-free. The country has significant benefits for EV buyers, including reduced taxes, half the cost of vehicle registration, zero EV tariffs and subsidies for electric buses.
EV numbers in Uruguay
It was surprisingly hard to get EV numbers for Uruguay, more so than any other South American country I could find data for. ACAU (Uruguay National Vehicle Association) does not provide any data on electric or electrified vehicles. However, it provides information on total sales, so we know that it sold 36,398 cars in 2020 and 51,737 in 2021.
Now, according to a Uruguayan media site, 97 BEVs were sold in 2020 (0.25% market share), increasing to 542 in 2021 (1% market share). There is no further information on models, brands or the overall composition of the market, but this would mean that Uruguay has indeed led the South American BEV market in 2021, surpassing Colombia (the current YTD leader as far as we know).
Now, even if the information provided is flimsy, at least some things can be gleaned from the data provided by ACAU. First, as in Colombia, BYD is a very big player in Uruguay, with more than 60% share of the EV market in 2021. In 2021, it had 392 sales, all of which were either BEVs or PHEVs. As of June 30, 2022, BYD had sold 223 vehicles in 2022. However, it is impossible to tell from the available data how many are BEVs and how many are plug-in hybrids.
Uruguay has also committed to building an extensive charging infrastructure, with 87 charging points already in place and another 35 planned by the end of the year. However, only 6 of these will have DC fast charging. A quick review on Electromaps reveals a very comprehensive charging network that covers the entire country, but only a few DC fast chargers in and around the biggest cities in the south. The rest of the network consists mainly of 22kW AC type 2 chargers.
Final remarks on Uruguay
Countries like Argentina, Brazil and Peru need to get their act together and start working to support the adoption of EVs.
Uruguay seems to be doing a decent job on this, but they need to get their act together on another thing: their stats are terrible. None of the Latin American media that report on EVs ever include Uruguay in any of their rankings because it seems impossible to place them accurately. Actually, I have no idea if Uruguay should be the top South American country in terms of EV market share in 2022. If anyone could provide a source for this matter it would be well received.
Regardless, Uruguay has a decent share of the market; a wide range of EV offerings from brands such as BYD, eMin, Farizon, Hozon, FAW, Hyundai, JAC, Keyton, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan; and the best charging network in the region (although mainly consisting of 22kW chargers).
When I started this series of articles, I believed that Colombia was the undisputed leader in the transition to electric mobility and the only country in the region to surpass 1% of plug-in vehicle sales (in 2021) and 1% of pure BEV sales (from the beginning of 2022). This was mainly because Uruguay’s numbers are never mentioned anywhere because apparently they can’t be found out. Now I’m wondering if Colombia or Uruguay should lead this ranking… but I think Colombia deserves the top spot, if only because the data it provides is detailed, comprehensive, and much easier to work with.
The Colombian government is constantly trying to make electric cars convincing for the population. At national level, there are significant incentives to purchase electrified vehicles (BEVs, PHEVs and HEVs), including zero tariffs, 5% VAT (compared to 19% for petrol and diesel cars) and a preferential tax rate that may never be set above 1 % of the price of the car (for petrol and diesel cars it can be up to 3.5%). At the local level, many cities have restrictions on the use of gasoline and diesel vehicles on certain days of the week (Bogotá, the strictest, only allows car use on half the weekdays). However, because the reason for the policy is claimed to be air quality, BEVs, PHEVs, HEVs and even mild hybrids are exempt. However, it may lose this status in the coming months.
EV numbers in Colombia
In the first six months of 2022, Colombia sold a total of 3,783 plug-in vehicles, of which more than half – 2,269 – were BEVs. A total of 147,107 cars were sold in the first 6 months of the year, meaning plug-ins have a 2.5% market share, 1.5% BEVs and 1% PHEVs. Plug-in sales grew at a significant rate month over month, averaging 256% for BEVs and 89% for PHEVs. And this despite the increase in prices due to logistical problems.
In terms of brand, the Colombian market is quite specific. Much of the growth came from the company’s purchase of more than 1,000 electric buses Transmilenio, Bogotá’s public transport company (making it the city with the largest number of electric buses outside of China). BYD – the bus company – therefore leads the market by a significant margin, followed by two European companies (Volvo and Mercedes-Benz) that complete the podium. It is quite likely that some of the brands in this top 10 will be unfamiliar to many readers, but we will come back to that later.
As for the top 10 models, 5 BEVs and 5 PHEVs top the list:
|2||Mercedes-Benz GLC 300||304|
|3||BYD Song Plus DM-i||246|
|8||Stärk E-Truck 4.0T||139|
|10||MINI Cooper SE||97|
As this is a regional overview, I will not go into each of these models in depth. I imagine that many of our readers will be unfamiliar with some of these vehicles, so it’s in order to talk a little bit about them. The two BYD models listed are electric buses with a capacity of 80 and 50 passengers. The chassis was made in China and sent to Colombia for the rest of the assembly process.
As for the Zhidou D2s, it is a two-seater with an 18kWh battery and a 30kW motor. It’s not on the level of the Wuling Hongguang: at $58,350,000 COP ($13,960 USD), it’s still more expensive than entry-level gasoline vehicles. However, it is the cheapest EV in Colombia with any semblance of being a “real” car. On the other hand, the Colombian Chinese Stärk E-Truck is a 4-ton urban truck with a 120 kW engine and an 81 kWh battery. Both of these vehicles are currently sold by a Colombian company called Auteco, which just three years ago sold only motorcycles, but now has the broadest portfolio of electric mobility options in the country. This includes vans, trucks, motorcycles, trikes, scooters and the upcoming JAC E10X. Auteco also commercializes electric vans and trucks from JAC and Dongfengwhich are in the 8th and 10th positions in our ranking of brands.
Honorable mention goes to BYD Yuan Pro and Audi e-tron, which sold 91 and 83 cars in the first half of the year, respectively. They are #11 and #12 in the rankings.
In terms of infrastructure, Colombia currently lacks a comprehensive fast charging network. However, some cities – notably Bogota and Medellin – have installed significant numbers of fast and slow chargers within their city limits. Currently, there are only two initiatives focused on intercity chargers: the largest of them led by the national company of gas stations called terpel, 12 stations are currently operating. However, they only have one (failure-prone) rack in each: 50 kW of power and three plugs (CCS1, Type 2 AC and CHAdeMO). On the following map, current stations are presented in blue, and planned ones in gray.
The only other players currently working on intercity charging are the cities of Manizales, Pereira and Armenia, which make up Colombia’s Coffee wasp and built three fast chargers – as Terpel – to be able to travel between them easily.
It is worth mentioning at least a few other peculiarities of the current Colombian EV situation. First, the Chinese dominated sales despite the complete absence of GB/T connectors anywhere outside the city. We will see if this situation is sustainable in the coming years. Second, at least four new models will arrive in the country in the remaining months of 2022: the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, the JAC E10X, an as-yet-unnamed truck from Photon (a Chinese brand that is the second largest manufacturer and seller of trucks in the country) and BYD Dolphin. Pricing has not yet been announced for any of these vehicles, with the exception of the Chinese JAC E10X assembled in Mexico, which will cost $89,500,000 COP or $21,064 USD at current exchange rates.
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