South America plug-in vehicle markets, a brief overview – Part 3: Uruguay and Colombia

By Juan Diego Celemin Mojica

“Passionate about everything related to Latin America, I have closely followed energy and mobility transitions since they have been present south of the equator.

If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, check out: South American plug-in vehicle markets, a brief overview – Part 1: Argentina, Peru and Ecuador and Plug-in vehicle markets in South America, a brief overview – Part 2: Chile and Brazil.


Uruguay

The smallest of them all, Uruguay normally competes with Chile for the “Most Developed Country in Latin America” ​​badge. However, in this case, it’s safe to say that while Uruguay has a bigger EV market, Chile has much better information. For all my research, I couldn’t find any specific data for Uruguay, and nothing regarding 2022 numbers. Only general numbers are provided. However, they position the country as the second best – maybe even the best – electric vehicle market in the region.

It’s worth pointing out that Uruguay’s electricity generation relies heavily on wind, hydro, and biomass, making it almost carbon-free. The country has significant advantages for buyers of electric vehicles, including reduced taxes, half the cost of vehicle registration, zero tariffs on electric vehicles and subsidies for electric buses.

Electric vehicle numbers in Uruguay

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

However, according to a Uruguayan media site, 97 BEVs were sold in 2020 (0.25% market share), a number which rose to 542 in 2021 (1% market share). There is no additional information regarding models, brands or overall market composition, but it would mean that Uruguay actually dominated the South American BEV market in 2021, overtaking Colombia (the leader current since the beginning of the year to our knowledge).

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

Uruguay has also pledged to build large-scale charging infrastructure, with 87 charging points already in place and 35 more planned by the end of the year. However, of these, only 6 will have DC fast charging. A quick review on Electromaps reveals a very comprehensive charging network that spans the whole country, but only a few DC fast chargers in and around the larger southern cities. The rest of the network is mainly made up of 22kW Type 2 AC chargers.

Latest comments on Uruguay

Countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Peru need to pull themselves together and start promoting the adoption of electric vehicles.
Uruguay seem to be doing a decent job on this file, but they need to pull themselves together on another one: their stats are terrible. None of the Latin American media that report on electric vehicles ever include Uruguay in any of their rankings because it seems impossible to place them precisely. In fact, I have no idea if Uruguay is expected to be the number one country in South America when it comes to EV market share in 2022. If anyone could provide a source on this, this would be well received.

Anyway, Uruguay has a decent market share; a wide range of electric vehicle 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 (however, consisting mainly of 22 kW chargers).

Colombia

When I started this series of articles, I thought that Colombia was the undisputed leader in the transition to electric mobility and the only country in the region that had exceeded 1% of sales of plug-in vehicles (in 2021) and 1 % of pure BEV sales (YTD in 2022). This was mainly because Uruguay’s numbers are never mentioned anywhere, as apparently they are impossible to understand. Now I wonder if Colombia or Uruguay should be at the top of this ranking… but I think Colombia deserves the top spot, if only because the data they provide is detailed, complete and a lot easier to use.

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

Electric vehicle numbers in Colombia

In the first six months of 2022, Colombia sold a total of 3,783 plug-in vehicles, with well over half – 2,269 – being BEVs. A total of 147,107 vehicles were sold in the first 6 months of the year, meaning plug-ins account for 2.5% market share, 1.5% being BEVs and 1% PHEVs . Plug-in sales grew at significant rates month over month, averaging 256% for BEVs and 89% for PHEVs. This despite the increase in prices due to logistical problems.

Now, on the brand side, the Colombian market is quite special. Much of the growth is due to the purchase of more than 1,000 electric buses by Transmilenio, Bogota’s public transport company (which made it the city with the most electric buses outside of China). BYD — the company that supplies the buses — therefore leads the market with a significant gap, followed by two European companies (Volvo and Mercedes-Benz) which complete the podium. Chances are some of the brands in this top 10 will be unknown to many readers, but we’ll get to that later.

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

As for the top 10 models, 5 BEV and 5 PHEV top the list:

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

Now, because this is a regional overview, I won’t go into detail on each of these patterns. I guess for many of our readers some of these vehicles will be unfamiliar, so it’s only fair to talk about them at least a little. The two BYD models 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 is a two-seater with an 18kWh battery and a 30kW motor. It’s not on the level of the Wuling Hongguang: at COP$58,350,000 (US$13,960), it’s still more expensive than entry-level gas-powered vehicles. However, it is the cheapest electric vehicle in Colombia with a semblance of being a “real” car. On the other hand, the Colombian-branded Chinese-made Stärk E-Truck is a 4-ton capacity city truck with a 120 kW motor and 81 kWh battery. These two vehicles are currently sold by a Colombian company called Auteco, which just three years ago only sold motorcycles, but currently has the widest portfolio of electric mobility options in the country. This includes vans, trucks, motorcycles, three-wheelers, scooters and the upcoming JAC E10X. Auteco also markets electric vans and trucks from JAC and Dongfengwhich occupy positions 8 and 10 in our brand ranking.

Honorable mention goes to BYD Yuan Pro and Audi e-tron, which sold 91 and 83 vehicles respectively in the first half. They are n°11 and n°12 in the standings.

Charging infrastructure

Regarding infrastructure, Colombia currently lacks a comprehensive fast-charging network. However, several cities – Bogota and Medellin, in particular – have installed significant numbers of fast and slow chargers within their urban perimeters. These days, there are only two initiatives focused on intercity charging stations: the largest of these, run by a national service station company called Terpel, currently has 12 stations in operation. However, they only have one carrier (prone to fail) in each: 50kW of power and three outlets (CCS1, Type 2 AC, and CHAdeMO). In the following map, in blue, they present the current stations, and in gray, those to come.

Image courtesy of Terpel.

The only other players currently working on intercity charging are the cities of Manizales, Pereira and Armenia, which make up the Coffee Axis and built three fast chargers – like of Terpel — to allow easy movement between them.

Latest comments on Colombia

It is worth mentioning at least some additional peculiarities of the current situation of electric vehicles in Colombia. First, the Chinese dominated sales despite a complete lack of GB/T connectors anywhere outside of a city. We will see in the years to come if this 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, an as yet unnamed truck from Photon (a Chinese brand that is the second largest manufacturer and seller of trucks in the country) and the BYD Dolphin. Pricing has yet to be announced for any of these vehicles, except for the JAC E10X made in China and assembled in Mexico, which will cost COP$89,500,000, or US$21,064 at current exchange rates.

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