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Engie Advancing Electric Mobility in Latin America

By Alejandro Enríquez | Mon, 07/27/2020 - 06:00

Q: How has Engie’s Electric Mobility division advanced in Latin America?

A: Transportation is a key element to achieve transition towards carbon neutrality. Electric mobility is bringing new ways of consuming transportation: shared, green and efficient. By combining our expertise, we are developing really interesting projects throughout Latin America. For instance, we have an electric bus prototype at UNAM’s facilities. We are finalizing the scenarios for the vehicle to be used as a mobility alternative within the university. We also have five electric vehicles for individual public transportation or ride-hailing applications. In addition, we provide different charging solutions, focusing on smart charging for vehicles, both on-site & off-site.

Engie is in 70 countries, having installed more than 112,000 chargers at the global level. The company is in charge of Rotterdam’s and Amsterdam’s public charging networks. We also provide electromobility B2B solutions, particularly for fleet companies. For companies that do not fully understand the effects of electromobility. We offer as-a-service or turnkey contract models able to solve all fuel-access issues: producing state-of-the-art EV charging devices and software; charging everywhere through roaming: home, office, public areas, highways; delivering asset-based and tailormade offers as-a-service, including vehicles and working with local teams to ensure a pragmatic expertise.

Q: What are the advantages of Smart Grid solutions and their impact on electric mobility?

A: Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology represents one of the strongest incentives to spread sustainable electric mobility, and a pillar of a rapid energy transition in terms of accessibility. V2G results in lower CO2 emissions and safer and more reliable electricity infrastructure. A great Example of V2G is our project with FCA at its plant in Mirafiori, Turin. In its final stage, the project will be capable of supplying up to 25 MW of regulatory capacity, making it the largest V2G facility ever built in the world. In addition, by aggregating it with other FCA assets at Mirafiori, including 5 MW of solar panel capacity, this V2G infrastructure will become a virtual power plant.

Q: What are the most common myths regarding EV infrastructure in Mexico?

A: There are myths and realities. The first myth is that there is not enough infrastructure. In reality, 2,500 EV chargers means we have a large capacity compared to other countries in terms of charger-to-vehicle ratio. Mexico is the 18th-leading country in the world regarding EV infrastructure. Chargers on highways are still missing, however. We need to connect cities; that is a reality. Efforts in this regard have been made by Tesla, BMW, Nissan and CFE, for instance, which deployed the infrastructure to connect main cities in the country. We will soon see initiatives such as this solving highway gaps.

The second myth is that EVs pollute more than a regular ICE vehicle. This is not true. Even taking into account CFE’s energy mix, an EV pollutes less than an ICE vehicle in Mexico during its entire life cycle. Another myth is that EVs are more expensive, which is true. But by performing a total cost of ownership analysis we can see that within five years, a high-performance vehicle would cost the same as an ICE.

Q: How have public policies promoted EVs in Mexico?

A: AMIA and CFE in 2015 signed an agreement to promote electro-mobility in the country. With this agreement CFE started promoting initiatives for the federal government to grant a 15 percent incentive on EV purchases for public infrastructure investment. It also helped users to get an additional meter, for residential usage, that works according to a low-demand high-tension scheme that makes energy cheaper. Alongside the automotive industry, we continue to promote EV infrastructure. As of today, there are more than 2,500 chargers in the country. CFE also supported this effort with a MX$25 million (US$1.01 million) investment.  Meanwhile, SEMARNAT published the National Electric Mobility strategy in 2018.

Today, conditions remain optimal to promote electric mobility in the country. In addition, we also need to promote electric mobility in public transportation, reviewing tariffs for purchasing technologies that already exist in other countries.

Q: Will charging stations have a cost in the future?

A: For that scenario to become a reality we first need more demand volume. In LATAM the market is still incipient. As of today, it would be really difficult to find any user willing to pay to charge their vehicle in a public place when they have the option to charge it at home.

Q: What electromobility projects are you developing in Chile, Colombia and Peru?

A: Regarding infrastructure, we are talking with different actors in Latin America to advance electric infrastructure. We offer two solutions. The first aims to develop public or semi-public places, where there is a host willing to adopt the technology. The second option is B2B projects in which we solve a company’s need for an electric fleet with our Charging as a Service solutions, where we can also include electric vehicles as part of the solution. This is really important since they are paying for a service rather than a product. Charging as a Service implies a monthly payment to receive the complete solution. In Chile, we have a 100-bus project, where we also finance the vehicles. In Mexico, we have implemented our Charging as a Service solution for the company 99-minutos.

With Charging as a Service, companies can save around 40 percent in infrastructure costs and energy costs, already validated by our 99-minutos fleet model. As of today, Engie electrification is charging 60 vehicles and we expect to increase that number to 2,000 vehicles in the short term. Charging as a Service reduces energy costs not only because of the service but due to the incorporation of smart charging technology, such as peak shaving, low balancing and smart queuing.

Q: What are the entry barriers for fleet management companies to adopt these kinds of solutions?

A: Electric mobility remains a valid option for Fleet companies because it could bolster their profitability. EVs spend less time in maintenance and they charge when idle, which means investing less time on fueling activities. Another barrier is the ability to translate electric fleets to a total property cost. This is the first area we need to work on. We review our customers’ situation on a case-by-case basis. Having the diagnostics, we then propose a solution that will introduce savings. Engie is actively participating in electric mobility projects at different scales, from a single passenger vehicle to truck fleets in the mining sector.

Q: What strategic partnerships are needed to advance EVs in the country?

A: Different entities should be involved. From the public sector, the ministries of economy, environment, energy, CFE and local governments should be involved. Regarding the private sector, we need actors that are willing to change their technology to reduce their CO2 emissions, as well as energy companies, such as Engie.

Q: How will Engie participate in the Latin American electric mobility market over the next five years?

A: Engie’s pillars in this regard are smart charging infrastructure, electric B2B fleets, mining fleets and public transportation. Latin America is a giant that is just waking up. Colombia is intent on introducing a public electric fleet. Chile has similar ambitions. Mexico City has announced its intentions to have an electric vehicle fleet. After China and Europe, Latin America will be the region where electric mobility will see great results.

 

Engie is an energy company present in 70 countries. Its electric mobility division is in direct communication with the company’s headquarters in France, allowing the company to replicate successful electro-mobility projects throughout the world

Photo by:   Engie
Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst

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