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EV Development in Chile 

While much of South America is having difficulty with the development of an electric vehicle market, Chile has made significant efforts to deploy EVs. While this has been primarily in the area of public transport, new legislation is expected to bring a significant rise to the level of electric passenger vehicles. This is already beginning to be seen, as the first 5 months of 2022 saw a 344% increase in EV sales over the same period last year. While the figure is still low by European or Chinese standards, it does represent a shift in passenger vehicles. By creating good charging infrastructure and incentivizing the purchase of EVs, Chile can create a blueprint for South American EV deployment. 

Chile is already a global leader in the deployment of EV public transport. Santiago has the largest number of electric buses outside of China, and it intends to have all of its buses electrified by 2040. To achieve this goal, the country’s first electric bus manufacturing factory is being built less than 60 miles outside the city. This factory is expected to produce up to 200 buses a year. The process is in line with Chile’s National Electromobility Strategy, which outlined actions required to fit the goal of a 100% electric vehicle public transportation fleet in Santiago by 2040 and the rest of the country by 2050. This is particularly important in urban settings, where air pollution can cause significant health problems, especially in low-income communities. By tackling the problem of electrifying public transport, Chile can reduce emissions without having to wait for electric vehicles to become an affordable option for more of the population. 

To further electrify high-usage vehicles, Santiago has begun electrifying the taxi service. As of 2019, French utility company Engie has deployed 30 electric taxis and TEL is expected to add 90 more units, primarily driven by women. These initiatives are supported by the government, which provides a differentiated subsidy for electric vehicles. Chile is also working to improve the number of private electric vehicles in the country, with the goal of 40% electric vehicles on the road by 2050. To achieve this aim, Chile has a commitment from 54 companies and institutions to promote electric vehicles within the country. A key component of this commitment is growing the number of available electric chargers by 5 times.

In order to promote the adoption of electric vehicles across the country, Chile has several charging corridors for electric vehicles. Voltex, the charging corridor that covers the south and central area of the country, has 23 charging stations stationed along 700 km (435 miles). When completed, they are expected to cover 1200 km (746 miles) across the south of the country. As of 2022, Chile had 818 electric vehicle charging stations, but only 297 were open to the public.

The Chilean government is leading the way with EV development legislation. In 2021, the Chilean government announced that all vehicles sold in Chile after 2035 will be electric. This includes light-duty and medium-duty vehicles, public transport (including taxis), and large mobile machinery (including mining equipment and extraction trucks). This comprehensive legislation will set about a rapid change in the electric vehicle market in Chile as car manufacturers will be forced to provide only electric cars to the Chilean market. The Chilean government has outlined the steps that it will take to reach these initiatives. These include efficiency standards for new vehicles, incentive programs for long-haul fleets, and the conversion of combustion engine vehicles into electric vehicles.

By passing comprehensive and ambitious legislation for passenger vehicles while electrifying public transport, Chile has become a leader in the electric vehicle space. While countries in Europe and China may have a higher rate of EV passenger car sales, Chile’s success demonstrates that countries without the resources of China, Europe, and the United States can still lead the way in the EV landscape.

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Otto graduated from the University of Virginia class of 2022 with a degree in history. He has been involved in clean energy, specifically solar and circular economic practices, for four years now and has been writing about clean energy for 2 years. Due to a lack of writing on the clean energy transitions in South America and Africa, Otto decided to spend his 2023 travelling across these continents, interviewing clean energy entrepreneurs, researchers, and disruptors and publishing their stories.


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