Reflection on the progress towards electrical mobility in Panama
- Electric vehicles are a crucial component in combating climate change.
- Large-scale adoption of electric mobility can only happen with investment in infrastructure, a better energy grid, and greater consumer acceptance.
- In Panama, little by little, factors are converging to accelerate our progress towards greater electrical mobility.
A powerful global change towards clean energy requires, among other things, that more of the planet’s citizens drive electric vehicles. However, these are still somewhat perceived as something of the future or science fiction films, even though Panama has been moving in that direction for a decade, as reported by local media.
The World Bank estimates that the car fleet in Latin America could triple in just 25 years. This increase in the number of vehicles in our countries entails higher CO2 emissions and noise pollution and significant deterioration in people’s quality of life, as a result of excessive traffic and insufficient parking in urban areas.
Cccording to a study by UN Environment, “the deployment of electric mobility in the region would mean an approximate decrease of 1.4 Gigatons of CO2 and close to 85 billion dollars in fuel savings for 2016-2050.”
In Panama, in 2019, the National Secretariat of Energy (SNE) and the Ministry of the Environment (MiAmbiente) presented the National Electric Mobility Strategy, an initiative to promote low-emission transport and contribute to the fulfillment of Panama’s climate commitments in the Paris Agreement. The broader goal is to integrate electric vehicles into the energy sector better.
However, we need to trust in the synergy of different parts of a complex ecosystem to accelerate our steps towards greater electric mobility. We still need to reach that moment of synergy, and there are barriers to overcome to implement electric mobility in our countries.
Before us, there is both a need and an opportunity: to make strategic decisions today, to get closer to the change we long for in the future. Globally, experts cite the lack of interoperability as one of the frustrations for drivers of private and commercial electric vehicles, the need to improve the customer experience for public charging points, and the high cost of electric cars.
In Panama: moving towards electrical mobility
Little by little, in our region, there are more and more elements in our favor. With incentives and a growing charging station network, countries seek to stimulate greater demand for electric cars and reduce transport emissions. In 2020, there were 10,766 electric cars in Latin America. Countries like Costa Rica have a National Decarbonization Plan that aims to modernize the car park, both public and private, and promote electric transport. Meanwhile, Colombia has planned to reach 600,000 electric cars by 2030.
At the end of 2016, the first 100% electric car entered the Panamanian market, and in 2019, the country launched a pilot plan for electric buses in Casco Antiguo. In August of this year, leaders and different entities linked to electric mobility met for the first time to promote the local development of this movement in the country and to promote knowledge around it.
In the country, the actors continue to join in. This month, Celsia, the Grupo Argos energy comIn the country, the actors continue to join in. This month, Celsia, the Grupo Argos energy company present in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras, and the City of Knowledge inaugurated a free charging station for electric vehicles on the City of Knowledge campus. This is the company’s fourth electric vehicle charging station in Panama and the 19th that the company has installed since 2017 in Colombia, Panama, and Honduras.
“With the launch of this station, we want to promote the use of this type of vehicle that not only positively impacts the environment, but also allows us to take the first steps towards a sustainable development for the country,” pointed out Javier Gutiérrez, Leader at Celsia Centroamérica.
Rodrigo Celis, Vice President of Operations and Maintenance at the City of Knowledge, pointed out that “it is essential to take steps to continue being a local and regional benchmark in terms of sustainable urban development and how we can live in sustainable countries and cities, –one of the SDGs. On our campus, where sustainable urbanism and avant-garde architecture coexist with preserving the historical legacy, mobility is a crucial factor: necessary to continue the commitment to means of transport that are efficient, safe, healthy, equitable, and competitive. “
“Thanks to this collaboration with Celsia, we renew our commitment to sustainability, putting at the service of our visitors and residents the ease of a charging station for hybrid vehicles at their fingertips on our campus,” he added.
A future in which we move sustainably
Moving to an electric mobility model requires doing things differently, which undoubtedly implies revolutionizing how we conceive transport. As we have seen, only by making this change can we forge a sustainable mobility scenario: one in which all parties benefit in the medium and long term.
Although in Latin America we are still in an early stage of adopting electric mobility, global trends support us. Electric mobility continues to gain ground in a post-pandemic world that has changed perceptions of mobility and accelerated the transition to electric vehicles.
FFor instance, the Netherlands boasts 57,505 electric charging points and this year, Norway became the first country to sell more than 50% of electric vehicles. In Oslo, there are exclusive lanes for electric cars and an accessible network of charging stations and other incentives such as preferential parking and toll-free transit for this type of transport.
We know that the sustainable development goals related to affordable and clean energy and forging sustainable cities and communities will be challenging to achieve without making major sustainability adjustments in the transport sector, particularly in our countries’ emerging economies.
According to the UNDP, “improving the safety and sustainability of cities involves ensuring access to safe and affordable housing and upgrading slums, but also includes investing in public transportation, creating green public areas, and improving urban planning and management in a way that is participatory and inclusive.”
Investments that accelerate the country’s move towards electric mobility are vital to getting closer to the catalytic goal of living in sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), that is, cities designed for the human beings who inhabit them to guarantee them a good quality of life.
 Informe: “Movilidad eléctrica: oportunidades para Latinoamérica” – http://www.pnuma.org/cambio_climatico/publicaciones/informe_movilidad_electrica.pdf