P4G Workshop in Colombia Talks E-Mobility Challenges and Offers Plenty of Solutions



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Transportation is the single largest source of emissions for many countries and is responsible for 24% of carbon emissions globally. For a country like Colombia with ambitious emissions reduction goals of 51% by 2030, large scale electrification is key. Its capital, Bogotá has the distinction of being the city with the largest electric bus network in the world outside China. 

P4G organized an e-mobility workshop in Bogotá, Colombia on March 29, 2023, bringing together multiple stakeholders working in this area to discuss challenges and offer recommendations for strengthening e-mobility enabling systems in the country. Robyn McGuckin, P4G’s Director of Partnerships spoke about the value of collaboration between different stakeholders – government, nongovernmental organizations and investors – to realize e-mobility solutions that have far reaching impacts on people’s lives, health and livelihoods. 

“Colombia is an important leader in climate as it can share replicable solutions at the global level,” said Fernando Paez, World Resources Institute Deputy Director, Colombia, as he kicked off the workshop. 

Paez shared WRI’s work in supporting Colombian cities to structure ambitious and achievable electrification plans, a priority for the country since the transportation sector in Colombia generates about 12.5% of the country’s total emissions. He also called out the challenge and opportunity of innovative financial tools and mechanisms to attract the investment needed to strengthen e-mobility systems. 

E-Mobility Challenges

Panelists weighed in with specific challenges to keeping the momentum for e-mobility going, which ranged from technological issues to behavioral ones. Angela Sarmiento, Head of the Regulatory and Business Affairs Office at Ministry of Mines and Energy in Colombia underscored the importance of having plentiful and accessible charging stations. Orlando Santiago, General Manager at Transmilenio, spoke about the challenges of convincing the market to implement an unproven technology. 

Deyanira Ávila, Mobility Secretary of Bogotá echoed the challenge of resistance to change and spoke about the need for making the transition in a systematic manner that encompasses e-mobility across all vehicles including cars, fleets and micro-mobility, the latter being especially important for its functionality since not everybody can ride a bike. Nicolás Rincón, Director of Infrastructure and Sustainable Energy at the Department of National Planning of Colombia spoke about the need to recuperate demand after the pandemic. 

On the topic of micro-mobility, Diana Gómez, CEO of Lola, which is the business partner in P4G partnership Green Last Mile, emphasized the need for businesses and cities to understand what works best for the logistics they need. This is a partnership testing the optimization of last mile distribution with electric bicycles and micro hubs. She said there’s great private sector interest in implementing micro-mobility solutions, but a specific challenge lies in electric three-wheelers not being certified as a transport service provider. 

E-Mobility Lessons Learned

Juliana Bejarano, Manager for Bogotá - Cundinamarca – Boyacá at ANDI, agreed with Gómez’s observation on private sector interest and said that companies were growing more sustainable and open to working on the transition. She spoke about the need to continue working with P4G and others like it to connect new businesses and entrepreneurs with big companies. 

“We want a comprehensive ecosystem and principally, a complete network to close the batteries cycle and enhance this transition,” said Ávila.

This theme of institutional level change and building a specialized bureau to guide all aspects of sustainable mobility was brought up by multiple panelists. They called out the roles that national and local government coordination and enabling policy framework have played in allowing Colombia to reach its significant sustainable transportation achievements. The enabling framework was also brought up by Martijn Groen, a diplomat at the Netherlands Embassy in Bogotá who mentioned the landmark EU law that requires all new cars sold from 2035 to have zero emissions. 

Recommendations to Speed Up the Transition

There were quite a few policy and regulatory recommendations that came out in the two panel discussions moderated by Paez and Pablo Martinez, Country Representative at the Global Green Growth Institute. These included: 

1. Improving the approval process for certifying different types of electric vehicles, especially for articulated or accordion buses; 

2. Limiting or eliminating restrictions for national government funding for local e-buses; and 

3. Improving incentives for public access to charging stations. 

Juliana Lugo, Sustainability Lead at Bavaria, the business partner in P4G partnership Sustainable Mobility in Cargo Transportation spoke about applying a series of learnings from the partnership to improve Bavaria’s business plan. The leading beverage company in Colombia, Bavaria has a goal of buying 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025 and reducing emissions by 25% throughout its fleets by 2030. With a grant and technical assistance from P4G, the partnership deployed 22 electric cargo trucks, 12 4-ton capacity vehicles, and 10 12-ton capacity trucks and proved a business case for empowering other companies to incorporate electric cargo trucks into their fleet. 

“One of Bavaria’s principles is that we dream big," said Lugo. 

The e-mobility workshop showed that she’s joined by many other big dreamers in Colombia actively working to make those visions a sustainable reality.