People will start using electric cars sooner than they think. Perhaps the next time someone orders a taxi through an app, a Tesla or an electric Jac will arrive at their doorstep. It is also very likely that when you rent a car at the airport they will offer you a small and practical citycar with a range of 300 kilometres. Or that the next time you use public transport you board an electric bus.
Vehicle makers are trying to speed up adoption of their electric models by selling them to ride-hailing companies, from apps to car rental companies, that are now more willing to deal with so-called range anxiety – the fear of staying put. without a battery–, the main barrier for a motorist to acquire an electric vehicle.
“I believe that the public transport market may be the first to completely switch to zero emissions, even before private use,” says Gerardo Gómez, general director of JD Power in Mexico.
For Guido Vildozo, an analyst at IHS Markit specializing in the automotive sector, this phenomenon is due to the fact that “it is relatively less complex to electrify public transport or private transport services, because the routes are already pre-established and you can have greater control over the autonomy and recharging times of the units”.
In Mexico, Chinese brand Jac has sold dozens of its plug-in models to ride-hailing app Beat and car rental company Budget Rent-A-Car.
“Because it is such a daring jump, people say: I would like to meet him before taking the jump. And we have realized that, in the case of electric vehicles, a test drive is not enough for customers to really be convinced”, explains Isidoro Massri, director of Jac in Mexico. “To put cars within the reach of people, we are going beyond just exhibiting them in a showroom, but we are trying to make it possible for people to have a driving experience without necessarily buying the vehicle,” he adds.
Beat acquired 120 units of the EJ7 model at the end of 2021 to launch a new service called Zero, which will allow it to offer more affordable rates than its Beat Tesla service. Thanks to the Beat project, the model was positioned as the second best-selling electric in Mexico during 2021.
The EJ7 is a liftback – a type of body in which the trunk lid includes the rear glass – whose dimensions are similar to those of a Passat. It’s roomy in the second row, with good trunk space and a tablet-sized screen sitting upright right in the middle of the dash. It has an electric motor with 243 lb-ft of torque and a 55 kW/h lithium-ion battery, which give it a range of up to 500 kilometers per liter in economy mode and 400 kilometers in normal mode.
“Customers can have the experience of traveling in an electric vehicle without suffering from range anxiety,” says Massri.
At the beginning of the year, Jac also closed another deal with Budget Rent-A-Car to sell units of the E10x model so that the lessor can rent them through its website or directly at the location it has at the International Airport of Mexico City (AICM). “We started with E10, but little by little we are going to incorporate other models so that people can get to know all the offer we have,” says Massri.
Other Chinese manufacturers, such as Sunwin, are closing deals with state governments to sell them electric buses that can operate on transport routes in populated cities.
Jalisco inaugurated the first wireless electric public transport route in mid-2021. The first 38 Sunwin brand buses arrived from China. The units, with a capacity of 58 passengers, arrived at the port of Manzanillo from Shanghai.
By 2030, between 10% and 15% of public transport units in Mexico, where around 8,500 buses are sold a year, could be electric, according to calculations by Mercedes-Benz.
“We understood that you cannot position electric vehicles with a strategy similar to the one we use for gasoline models, where we do a launch event, set a price and then put it in the agencies. The electric one requires a completely different process”, concludes Massri.