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South America Plugin Vehicle Markets, A Brief Overview — Part 3: Uruguay & Colombia

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.”

If you missed part 1 and part 2 of this series, see: South American Plugin Vehicle Markets, A Brief Overview — Part 1: Argentina, Peru, & Ecuador and South America Plugin Vehicle Markets, A Brief Overview — Part 2: Chile & Brazil.


Uruguay

Smallest of all, Uruguay normally competes with Chile for the “most developed Latin American Country” badge. However, in this case it’s safe to say that even if Uruguay has a more prominent EV market, Chile has much better information available. For all my research, I was unable to locate any kind of specific data for Uruguay, and nothing regarding 2022 numbers. Only general numbers are provided. However, they position the country as the second best — perhaps even the best — EV market in the region.

It’s good to point out that Uruguay’s electricity generation is largely based upon wind, hydropower, and biomass power, which makes it almost carbon-free. The country has significant benefits for EV buyers, including reduced taxes, half the cost for vehicle registration, zero tariffs on EVs, and subsidies for electric buses.

EV numbers in Uruguay

It was surprisingly hard to get EV numbers for Uruguay, more so than for any other South American country I found data for. ACAU (Uruguay’s national vehicle association) does not provide any data on electric or electrified vehicles. However, it does provide information on total sales, and because of this we know that it sold 36,398 vehicles in 2020 and 51,737 in 2021.

Now, according to a Uruguayan media site, 97 BEVs were sold in 2020 (0.25% market share), a number that increased to 542 in 2021 (1% market share). There is no additional information regarding models, brands or overall market composition, but this would mean that Uruguay actually led the South American BEV market in 2021, surpassing Colombia (the current leader YTD as far as we know).

Now, even if the information provided is flimsy, at least some things can be extracted from the data provided by ACAU. For one, just like in Colombia, BYD is a very large player in Uruguay, with over 60% market share in electric utilitarian vehicles in 2021. It had 392 total sales in 2021, all of which were either BEVs or PHEVs. As of June 30, 2022, BYD has sold 223 vehicles in 2022. Though, it’s impossible to know with the available data how many are BEVs and how many plug-in hybrids.

Uruguay is also committed to building large-scale charging infrastructure, with 87 charging points already existing and 35 more planned by the end of the year. However, of the latter, only 6 will have DC fast charging. A quick review on Electromaps reveals a very comprehensive charging network that covers the whole country, but only a few DC fast chargers in and around the largest cities in the south. The rest of the network consists mainly of 22kW Type 2 AC chargers.

Final comments on Uruguay

Countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Peru must get their act together and start working on promoting the adoption of EVs.
Uruguay seems to be doing a decent job on this matter, but it needs to get its act together on another one: its statistics are terrible. None of the Latin American media reporting on EVs ever includes Uruguay in any of their rankings because it seems impossible to place them precisely. I actually have no idea if Uruguay should be the top South American country regarding EV market share in 2022. If anyone could provide a source for this matter, it would be well received.

Regardless, Uruguay has a decent market share; a vast array of EV offerings from brands like BYD, eMin, Farizon, Hozon, FAW, Hyundai, JAC, Keyton, Mercedes-Benz, and Nissan; and the best charging network in the region (though, mainly consisting of 22kW chargers).

Colombia

When I started this article series, I believed Colombia was the indisputable leader in the transition to electric mobility and the only country in the region that had surpassed 1% plug-in vehicle sales (in 2021) and 1% pure BEV sales (YTD in 2022). This was mainly because Uruguay’s numbers are never mentioned anywhere, as, apparently, they’re impossible to figure out. Now I wonder whether Colombia or Uruguay should be leading this ranking … but I think Colombia deserves first place, if only because the data it provides is detailed, comprehensive, and much easier to work with.

The Colombian government has made a consistent effort to make EVs compelling for the population. At the national level, there are significant incentives to purchase electrified vehicles (BEVs, PHEVs, and HEVs), including zero tariffs, a 5% VAT (compared to 19% for gasoline and diesel cars), and a preferential tax rate that may never be set above 1% the price of the car (it can be up to 3.5% for gasoline and diesel cars). At the local level, many cities have limitations on the use of gasoline and diesel vehicles certain days of the week (Bogota, the strictest one, only allows the use of a car on half of weekdays). However, since the reason for this policy is claimed to be air quality, BEVs, PHEVs, HEVs, and even mild hybrids are exempt. Though, the latter may lose this status in the months to come.

EV numbers in Colombia

During the first six months of 2022, Colombia sold 3,783 plug-in vehicles in total, well over half — 2,269 — being BEVs. A total of 147,107 vehicles were sold during the first 6 months of the year, which means plug-ins stand at 2.5% market share, 1.5% being BEVs and 1% being PHEVs. Plug-in sales have been growing at significant rates month after month, averaging 256% for BEVs and 89% for PHEVs. This is despite the increase in prices due to logistical issues.

Now, brand-wise, the Colombian market is quite particular. A large part of the growth has come thanks to the purchase of over 1,000 electric buses by Transmilenio, Bogota’s public transport company (which has made it the city with the largest number of electric buses anywhere outside of China). BYD — the company providing the buses — therefore leads the market by a significant difference, followed by two European companies (Volvo and Mercedes-Benz) that complete the podium. It’s quite likely that some of the brands in this top 10 will be unknown to many readers, but we’ll come back to that later.

BRAND SALES
BYD 1,226
VOLVO 413
MERCEDES-BENZ 350
BMW 319
ZHIDOU 159
STARK 140
MINI 123
DONGFENG 105
AUDI 83
JAC 76

As for the top 10 models, 5 BEVs and 5 PHEVs top the list:

# MODEL TOTAL SALES
1 BYD BC89S01 470
2 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 304
3 BYD Song Plus DM-i 246
4 BYD BC11S01 218
5 Volvo XC60 187
6 Volvo XC90 169
7 Zhidou D2S 159
8 Stärk E-Truck 4.0T 139
9 BMW X5 107
10 MINI Cooper SE 97

Now, because this is a regional overview, I won’t delve deeply into every one of these models. I guess for many of our readers, some of these vehicles will be unknown, so it’s fair to at least talk a bit about them. Both BYD models present on the list are electric buses, with a capacity of 80 and 50 passengers, respectively. The chassis was built in China and sent to Colombia for the rest of their assembly process.

As for the Zhidou D2s, it’s a two-seater with an 18kWh battery and a 30kW motor. It’s not on the Wuling Hongguang’s level: at $58,350,000 COP ($13,960 USD), it is still more expensive than entry-level gasoline vehicles as well. However, it is the cheapest EV in Colombia with any semblance of being a “real” car. On the other hand, the Chinese-made Colombia-branded Stärk E-Truck is a 4-ton capacity urban truck with a 120kW motor and an 81kWh battery. Both of these vehicles are currently sold by a Colombian company called Auteco, which a mere three years ago only sold motorcycles but currently has the broadest portfolio of electric mobility options in the country. That includes vans, trucks, motorcycles, three-wheelers, scooters, and the coming JAC E10X. Auteco also commercializes electric vans and trucks from JAC and Dongfeng, which stand in positions 8 and 10 in our brand ranking. 

Honorary mention goes out to the BYD Yuan Pro and the Audi e-tron, which had 91 and 83 vehicles sold, respectively, during the first half of the year. They are #11 and #12 in the ranking.

Charging infrastructure

As for infrastructure, Colombia currently lacks a comprehensive fast charging network. Though, several cities — Bogota and Medellin, in particular — have installed a significant number of fast and slow chargers within their urban perimeters. Nowadays, there are only two initiatives focused on inter-city chargers: the largest of these, led by a national gas station company called Terpel, currently has 12 stations operating. Though, they only have one (prone to failure) stand in each: 50kW of power and three plugs (CCS1, Type 2 AC, and CHAdeMO). In the following map, in blue, they present the current stations, and in grey, the upcoming ones.

Image courtesy of Terpel.

The only other players currently working on inter-city charging are the cities of Manizales, Pereira, and Armenia, which compose Colombia’s Coffee Axis and have built three fast-chargers — like Terpel’s — to allow easy travel between them.

Final comments on Colombia

It’s worth mentioning at least a few more particularities of Colombia’s current EV situation. First, the Chinese have been dominating sales despite a complete absence of GB/T connectors anywhere outside a city. We’ll see in the coming years if that situation is sustainable. Second, at least four new models are coming to the country in the remaining months of 2022: the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, the JAC E10X, a yet unnamed truck by Foton (a Chinese brand which is the second largest truck maker and seller in the country), and the BYD Dolphin. Prices have not yet been announced for any of these vehicles except for the Chinese-made, Mexican-assembled JAC E10X, which will cost $89,500,000 COP, or $21,064 USD at current exchange rates.

 
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