Electric Vehicles (EV’s) are increasing in popularity all around the world. In Costa Rica is doing, the Asociacion de Vehiculos Electricos, is promoting the use of electric vehicles in the country through dialogue with the ministry of Environment (MINAE).

Despite some concerns about range and speed of charging, many if not most of the major vehicle manufacturers are introducing them. The most well-known ones of course are the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S but there are a great many more now coming on to the market.

Governments are in turn responding, albeit somewhat slowly in some countries, by constructing the necessary public charging infrastructure, including fast-charging systems for longer-distance driving.
In 2009, the Costa Rican market welcomed its first electric car, the Korean manufactured e-Zone. The tiny two-seater promises a comfortable interior, advanced safety features, and fancy extras like built-in mp3 players.

As of January 2015, the Costa Rican stock of electric drive vehicles consisted of 477 hybrid electric vehicles and 2,229 plug-in electric vehicles, including passenger cars, buses, motorcycles, quadricycles and electric bicycles.

The first electric car to go on sale in the country was the REVAi, introduced in March 2009. The REVAi, powered by lead–acid batteries, sold 10 units during its first month in the market, 5 by corporate clients and 5 by individual customers. The Mitsubishi i MiEV was launched in February 2011, with initial availability limited to 25 to 50 units. According to Mitsubishi, Costa Rica was selected at the first market launch in the Americas due to its environmental record, despite the lack of government incentives for purchasing electric cars
As of February 2012, only a total of 61 all-electric cars had been registered in the country, with 31 purchased by individual customers, and 30 sold to embassies, universities, and corporate clients. Lack of charging infrastructure, there are no public charging stations in the country, and the need to introduce government incentives to reduce purchase taxes, are cited as the main causes for the low volume sales.

The only existing fiscal incentive is the elimination of the consumption tax for electric vehicles implemented in 2006, while conventional vehicles pay a 30% rate. A bill introduced in 2010 to reduce purchase and import duty taxes has not move forward in the Legislative Assembly.

Since October 2012, electric cars are exempted from the restrictions imposed by the road space rationing implemented by plate number to restrict access to downtown San José, the country’s capital.

Nissan signed an agreement with the Costa Rican government in February 2012 to implement a pilot program as part of the introduction of the Nissan Leaf in the country.

In January 2013 BYD Auto signed an agreement with the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy to deploy 200 BYD e6 electric cars for use as “green taxis.” The electric cars will be exempt from import duties and the government has agreed to deploy charging stations in strategic locations in the city of San José. Retail sales of the BYD Qin plug-in hybrid began in Costa Rica in November. Sales of the Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV began in March 2015.

Electric cars are more efficient

As the market for EVs expands, and the price goes down, here then are six major benefits of buying an EV.

The Nissan Leaf is the world's all-time best selling highway-capable electric car, with global sales of over 180,000 units by early June 2015.
The Nissan Leaf is the world’s all-time best selling highway-capable electric car, with global sales of over 180,000 units by early June 2015.

When it comes to efficiency, EVs are much better than their petrol/gasoline equivalents. The reason for this is because an electric vehicle delivers the same level of efficiency throughout its life and that instantly gives it a huge advantage over its fossil-fuelled competitor. Furthermore, the large natural gas plant often used to supply the electricity that charges the car is far more efficient than the smaller fossil fuel engine in a conventional car, therefore the EV wins. If some or all of the electricity is generated from a solar panel array, solar farm or wind farm, it gets even better. Furthermore, it may be possible in the future to install solar panels directly on to the roof of the car, thereby making it even more efficient. Another thing to consider is that the internal combustion engine (ICE) gives off heat – and heat is basically wasted energy. So there you go.

Among the most efficient models are the Ford Focus Electric, the Mitsubishi i-Miev, the Nissan LEAF and the BMW i3 BEV. Drivers are responding to this positively, US EV sales reached a quarter of million by September 2014 and 60 percent of American citizens now live in areas where EVs produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the most efficient gas-hybrid models.

The Fisker Karam PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid) with solar panel roof (Pic: Steve Jurvetson, Flickr)
The Fisker Karam PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid) with solar panel roof (Pic: Steve Jurvetson, Flickr)

 

Energy Independence

EVs are a great way in which to make your transportation energy independent, that is, not having to rely on a fuel source that is imported from abroad, possibly from a country with an unstable socio-political system (just remember the 1970’s oil crisis as an example). In the US, because the batteries are often made within the country, this adds to energy independence and also supports a home-grown manufacturing industry and that means jobs. There are some who say that the fracking revolution is making this argument outdated, but actually the US shale gas sector is already starting to decline and shale gas supplies can’t be relied upon indefinitely, whereas electricity generated by a wind farm can. The more EVs on the road, and the more charging infrastructure, the more energy independent America becomes. And if America can do this, so can every other country.

EVs are more reliable

EVs are more reliable than fossil fuel vehicles because they have less complicated engines and that means less maintenance. A five year study conducted by Nissan recently found that 99.9 percent of the company’s battery packs are still operating according to warranty – that is maintaining 80 percent capacity or more after five years. A British company then took this information and found that the Nissan LEAF drivetrain is 25 times more reliable than ICEs.

BMW i8 (Pic by Loco Steve, Flickr)
BMW i8 (Pic by Loco Steve, Flickr)

Climate Change

Unfortunately, there are still many people willing to knock EVs, criticizing them as supposedly having higher emissions than normal cars. In fact, although EVs charged with electricity generated by coal plants indeed have a zero effect on emissions but if the electricity comes from a natural gas plant the end result is that the EV produces less than half of the total emissions produced by a fossil fuel vehicle. EVs also emit less heat than conventional vehicles and this means they can reduce the urban heat island effect (UHIE) thereby reducing the need for urban air conditioners and that in turn saves carbon emissions.

Better operating costs

The cost of buying an EV remains high (but is starting to fall) but drivers can already benefit from operating cost savings over fossil fuel vehicles, primarily because of less expensive fuel and also because of the reduced need for maintenance. The cost per mile of EVs is or will be much less than conventional vehicles. For example a Mitsubishi I with a 16 kW battery compared to a fossil fuel vehicle achieving 30 miles to the gallon will make cost savings of (assuming a figure of US$0.12 per kWh for electricity) US$2.01 per 40 kilometres, US$1,206  per 24,000 kilometres (assuming 1 year’s operation) and US$9,648 per 24,000 kilometres (assuming 8 year’s operation). These savings can be reduced further through public or private charging stations, particularly if they are powered by solar or wind energy.

Ford Focus Electric (Pic: BeCarChic, Flickr)
Ford Focus Electric (Pic: BeCarChic, Flickr)

Every major manufacturer is now starting to roll out EV models

It started with the Chevy Volt and the Nissan LEAF, among a few others, but now every major motor manufacturer is starting to develop EV models or has already done so. The models currently available include the Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV, Kia Soul, Peugeot iON, Tesla Model S, Toyota RAV and VW eGolf. Vehicles planned for production include the Audi A1 e-tron, Detroit Electric SP.01, Liberty Electric re-engineered electric Range Rover, Mercedes A Class E-Cell and various others.

So, be assured that the ICE car is on its way out. It will take some time to die off completely of course, but there is no longer any real doubt that EVs are the future of motoring. You should expect to see in the future even better batteries, more light-weight materials and more automation. There will be increasingly greater number of models to choose from, judging by Mercedes recent announcement that it will be offering no less than 10 plug-in hybrids over the next couple of years. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and the Tesla Model S still rival the Nissan LEAF as the most popular models at present. Total global sales of EVs reached 320,000 in 2014 and will almost certainly exceed 500,000 in 2015.

There’s a bright future ahead for motoring, and it’s going to be electric.


Stay up to date with the latest stories by signing up to our newsletter, or following us on Facebook.