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South American Plugin Vehicle Markets, A Brief Overview — Part 1: Argentina, Peru, & Ecuador

By Juan Diego Celemín Mojica

“Passionate for all things Latin American, I’ve been closely following the energy and mobility transitions since they started to be present south of the Equator.”


So far, South America has been a laggard in the transition to electric mobility. This, and the fact that the continent represents a relatively small share of the world’s overall new car market (~5.5% in 2020), has made the region a relatively unknown player in the globe’s transition to clean mobility. Yet the transition is marching there as it is everywhere else, and electric and hybrid vehicles has gone from being virtually unknown in the region to representing a small yet growing percentage of sales. Some countries, as we’ll see, seem to be on the verge of disruption, while others are just starting to see EVs being delivered in sizable numbers.

Sadly, not all the countries in the region offer comprehensive information regarding BEV and PHEV sales, and some seem to have only a trickle of EVs entering their markets. Because of this, not all South American countries will appear in this list, and those that do will be ranked from lower EV market share to higher EV market share.

Argentina & Peru

We start this overview in a grim mood. But do not despair. It will get better.

As a general rule, the more developed an EV market is, the more information there is about it. This means that for the first countries in this article series, both of which have only a marginal EV presence, information sources are few and far between. Because of this, I decided to present these two countries together.

EV numbers in Argentina & Peru

During the first six months of 2022, 140,049 vehicles were sold in Argentina. Before we go further, one more note: a quirk of underdeveloped EV markets is to either merge all electrified vehicles as “electric” or, in the best of cases, to separate “electric” from “hybrid” but merge PHEVs and HEVs. As we will see, this is very common in Latin American countries … including Argentina.

Because of this, we know that 3,371 of these 140,049 vehicles sales were hybrids but most of them (including the 5 most sold models, which account for 80% of total hybrid sales) were HEVs. The PHEV total is an unknown amount. Only 82 BEVs were sold, 0.05% of the market … a truly marginal percentage. As a result, only three full electric models managed to get into the top 15 sales for electrified vehicles:

# BRAND MODEL SALES
1 TITO CORRADIR S2 53
2 NISSAN LEAF 15
3 RENAULT KANGOO ZE 10

Honorary mention to the Tito Corradir, a brave made-in-Argentina contender that is a basic two-seat BEV from $16,500 (8 kWh, 4.5 kW for the base model). It currently has the lead in the Argentinian market. Farewell, you weird little car.

Image courtesy of Coradir.

Peru, meanwhile, presents a grand total of 89,341 vehicles sold during the first six months of 2022. Fortunately, Peru’s numbers are much better presented, and we can know that 62 of these vehicles were BEVs (0.07%) and 75 were PHEVs (0.08%). Together, they even surpass the 0.1% mark!

Peru’s electric market, like Argentina’s, is still very young, and 2022’s greatest achievement so far has been to surpass one-tenth of a percent of monthly sales. It’s something … but I think we can expect more for 2022.

Yes, both Peru and Argentina are laggards, despite some discounts they offer with an EV purchase (like lower VAT). It remains to be seen if the two countries will be able to overcome their limitations and become big players in a region where they are currently being left behind.

Sadly, I couldn’t find information regarding brand and model sales in Peru.

Ecuador

Despite its small size, Ecuador stands out as the fifth best BEV market in South America — but electric vehicles in this country are still few and far between, even though they provide significant benefits for their owners. Currently, the Ecuadorian government offers 0% VAT for any BEV purchased in the country, a 50% discount on city tolls, a 50% discount on car taxes (and for on taxes for EV chargers too), and special tariffs for electricity.

EV numbers in Ecuador

When writing this article, data for the Ecuadorian vehicle market was only available through May. Therefore, I will only present sales numbers during the first five months of 2022.

From January–May, 149 BEVs were sold in Ecuador, a small number if we compare it with the total of 55,392 vehicles registered in that same period. As such, BEV market share stands at only 0.27%. Hybrids fared better, at 2,801 units (5% market share), but — again — official data makes it impossible to know how many of these were HEVs and how many were PHEVs. As such, I will focus on BEVs. After all, isn’t a full BEV market what we’re all looking for?

Numbers may be small, but they are rising rapidly. Only two years ago, BEVs were selling in the single digits in Ecuador. That said, the rate of growth seems to have stopped in May.

Ecuador has high influence from Chinese brands, some of which are almost unknown to the rest of the region. Year to date, the top 10 (well, actually, top 11) looks like this:

# BRAND SALES
1 DONGFENG 23
2 AUDI 21
3 SKYWELL 20
4 BYD 16
5 ZHIDOU 14
6 HYUNDAI 9
7 DAYANG 5
7 RENAULT 5
8 JIAYUAN 4
9 TESLA 3
9 MG 3

8 brands out of the 11 are Chinese, if we include MG. However, due to the very small size of the current BEV market in Ecuador, it’s hard to argue they have an insurmountable lead. Any automaker capable of offering compelling vehicles could take the crown from them. The market is not yet set.

As for charging infrastructure, Ecuador currently lacks a comprehensive network (as does most of the region), but it has several slow and rapid charging stations in Quito, and 4 of them connecting the cities of Guayaquil and Cuenca. The market is still minuscule, though, and it remains to be seen whether charging infrastructure will develop at the same rate as other countries.

Final comments on Ecuador

Ecuador currently has some of the most generous gasoline subsidies in the world. Several governments have tried to dismantle them, only to find themselves facing massive opposition from large sectors of the population. This puts the government in a difficult position: it may want to promote EVs to reduce gasoline consumption (and increase the share of oil that can be exported), but the incentives for this are not set in the economy — the population has access to relatively cheap gas. However, charging an EV is still cheaper, and Colombia shows that a country can simultaneously have subsidies for gasoline and a relatively high EV market share. Stay tuned.

Featured image courtesy of Coradir.

 
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