Costa Rica turns attention to electric cars

Although Costa Rica is a clean energy leader, it has only 600 electric cars out of 1.4 million private vehicles


Costa Rica likes to promote itself as an ecological paradise, where more than 98% of its electricity needs are met by clean energy.

Photo by Ezequiel BECERRA

Although it is a leader in clean energy, in the automotive industry, it is lagging behind with just 600 out of 1.4 million private vehicles running on 100% electricity rather than gasoline or diesel.

Experts believe that is about to change.


Bernal Muñoz, a director at the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) – Costa Rican State power utility – insists that 600 vehicles is in itself progress, having doubled the number on the roads in 2017.

“We have studies done by the University of Costa Rica with mathematical models that say the growth rate will continue,” Muñoz said. “In five years, there could be 40,000 electric vehicles,” he added.

ICE is leading the way, recently purchasing a fleet of 100 electric vehicles to replace the same number of fuel-powered ones.

“The aim of this project is to demonstrate that the electric vehicle is perfectly adapted to the topographical conditions of this country, with its rolling, mountainous terrain,” said Muñoz.

But the move to electric vehicles is not just at ICE, Correos de Costa Rica – Costa Rica’s postal service – has got in on the act too, purchasing 30 electric motorcycles to be used by employees to make deliveries.

“We have proposed the transition towards a fleet of electric vehicles, facilitating the process so that public institutions buy zero-emission vehicles,” said Costa Rica’s First Lady Claudia Dobles.

An architect, Dobles has been tasked with the government’s urban renovation program, including the modernization of its public transport, mainly focusing on the development of the electric train project.

In May, when taking office, President Carlos Alvarado announced electric vehicles they to the decarbonization of the economy project.

World Leader

Costa Rica is already a world leader when it comes to green energy, producing 98% of its power through renewable resources for the last four years in a row.

Carlos Echeverria, senior regional specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank (IAB), says that makes Costa Rica the ideal place to promote clean transport. “The government wants to convert Costa Rica into a laboratory for the decarbonization of the economy, and transport is fundamental to that,” he recently told AFP.

In addition to the replacement of fuel-powered vehicles with electric ones at state institutions, last year the central government implemented tax exemptions for the private purchase of electric cars.

It’s also planning a passenger train for the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) and a cargo locomotive to and from its major ports in the Caribbean, located in the province of Limon.

“What Costa Rica is doing is leading in the way of electrical mobility at a regional level,” said Echeverria.

Muñoz said there have been discussions with transport businesses to launch electric buses, but for the time being the focus is on private cars.

To promote the use of electric vehicles, in 2019, ICE it will start installing a network of 40 rapid-charging stations distributed throughout the country, to allow electric vehicles to travel longer distances, including outside the Central Valley.

Currently, there are only three companies importing electric vehicles in Costa Rica: Nissan, Hyundai, and BMW. But at US$30,000 to US$50,0000 per vehicle, that is beyond the means of the vast majority of Costa Ricans.

“What Costa Rica is doing is leading in the way of electrical mobility at a regional level,” said Echeverria.

The “Green Route”

Other Latin American countries, such as Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, have made progress in the electric public transport sector.

Paraguay will inaugurate in 2019 rapid-charging electric stations over 1,000 kilometers of roads connecting its major cities, know as the “green route.”

With notes from AFP. Text by QCostarica.