Friday 27 January 2023

ICE would buy electric buses and rent them to bus operators

Report on the pilot plan with electric buses donated by Germany, suggests that ICE take on a business to promote these vehicles in Costa Rica

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QCOSTARICA – The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) – the State power and telecom –  could take on the business of buying electric buses and then renting them to public transport companies, according to the recommendation made in the report of the pilot plan that began in Costa Rica a year ago, with three electric units donated by Germany.

This pilot plan, which began in February 2021, put electric buses into operation on urban routes in order to collect data on their performance under normal operating conditions, for analyzes and recommendations.

Desamparados bus users were the first to travel in the electric units that participate in the pilot plan.

The initiative was born from an alliance between the Government and the “MiTransporte” project of Germany’s GIZ, the German Corporation for International Cooperation.

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According to the report, it is convenient for ICE to rent the vehicles, considering that promoting technology in the country would require measures such as raising passenger rates or giving subsidies to carriers to cover the replacement of their fleet with electric units.

The document Buses Eléctricos para Costa Rica! (Electric Buses for Costa Rica!): Lessons learned from a pilot project and recommendations for scaling up – was published last month and presented to ICE as the instrument to solve that obstacle that, says the report, today prevents bus operators from making the change, as stipulated in the 2018 law, Ley de Incentivos y promoción para el transporte eléctrico (Ley N° 9518) – Incentives Law and promotion for electric transportation.

This law provides in article 28, that carriers must replace their diesel-based vehicle fleet with electric buses at a rate of 5% every two years.

ICE would assume the role of “bus rental company for electric units”, that is, it would pay for the buses and then rent them to carriers.

“This company (ICE), by acquiring high volume, obtains better prices, in addition to receiving from the manufacturer the technical capabilities for its maintenance. Consequently, it becomes the exclusive importer for Costa Rica, and even a scope of operations at the Central American level could be conceived,” proposes the document.

The options proposed would be three: rental of units, rental and maintenance or all of the above, in addition to providing electricity to recharge the vehicles.

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In all, the analysis suggests, the rental service would be at a fixed cost (whose amount is not included in the report) for a period of 15 years, including a temporary “refund” at the end of eight years for general renewal and battery reconditioning purposes of each unit.

“For Costa Rica, it has been theorized that ICE would be the company with the best profile to serve as a bus rental company. This solution would allow ICE to assume a leadership role in electric transportation and, as the transition gains momentum, access better prices, better brands, and build a robust knowledge base. All this would result in greater confidence among the operators until the transition is complete and the market is consolidated”, reads the document issued by GIZ.


In December 2020, when the German Embassy in Costa Rica officially handed over the buses to government authorities, they then reported that one of the vehicles would remain at ICE to “carry out tests on other routes with different conditions” in order to evaluate technology and have a backup unit if any of the buses suffered a breakdown.

However, from the beginning of the process for importing the buses for the plan, according to the report, ICE had a leading role in the process, because for regulatory reasons it was the entity that had the authorization to receive them and then give them on loan to the transport companies that participated.

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Once the trial got underway, ICE assumed the installation of the necessary electrical infrastructure for the chargers of the units in the facilities of the participating operators and, in addition, will maintain the units once the pilot plan is completed.

According to GIZ, there are other possible financing models to make the transition to electric public transport.

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