ZEBRA partnership to accelerate electric bus deployment in Latin America

The Zero Emission Bus Rapid-deployment Accelerator (ZEBRA) aims to deploy more than 3,000 new electric buses in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

The deployments will focus on ‘core cities’ where the partnership is already most active in the four countries, São Paulo, Santiago, Medellín and Mexico City.

These should then catalyse acceleration in other cities where deployments are planned or are starting including Bogotá in Colombia, Curitiba, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador in Brazil, Guadalajara in Mexico and Quito in Ecuador.

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ZEBRA is an initiative of the P4G network with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and International Council on Clean Transportation as co-leaders and additional support from the Centro Mario Molina Chile environment consultancy and World Resources Institute.

With a coalition of new investors and bus manufacturers, ZEBRA intends to ensure political commitment for zero emission public transport in the four cities and commitments from the manufacturers and other industry providers to make the technologies available no later than 2021.

ZEBRA also is working to secure $1 billion for the deployment of the 3,000 buses during 2021 and beyond and plans to share best practices among these and other cities in the region.

“There are cities that are already determined to make their public transport fleets zero emissions,” says C40 spokesman Thomas Maltese.

“The commitments will help meet the demands of the authorities and transit operators, thus managing to overcome two of the main barriers to the deployment of zero emission buses: the limited supply for the choice of vehicles and the lack of investment.”

ebuses in Latin America

Latin America has shown a strong appetite for electric buses with more than 1,900 on the roads currently. However, these vehicles amount to less than 1% of the region’s total bus fleet.

The largest number, over 550, are found in Santiago, which also is the largest zero emission bus fleet in the world outside China.

In Medellín and Bogotá the electric bus fleets are being rapidly expanded. In São Paulo all new buses from 2028 must be zero emission and other cities in Brazil including Curitiba and Salvador intend that all new buses should be zero emission.

The driver is emissions and for example in Santiago, as much as 79% of the emissions are attributed to transportation with the main cause the outdated diesel bus technology used for public transport.

Innovative business models and financial mechanisms are expected to support the large scale deployment of electric buses. Examples being applied include separation of ownership and operation of buses in Santiago, concessional financing in Medellín or separation of ownership of the bus chassis and battery in São Paulo.

An additional incentive is seen in reduced operation and maintenance costs of electric buses. In Santiago, the private operator Metbus found that the operating and maintenance costs of its fleet of more than 400 e-buses are 70% and 37% cheaper than a diesel bus respectively.