Costa Rica prides itself on having a clean energy matrix. However, the development of sustainable transport, based on electromobility, is key to ending dependence on fossil fuels. Like other capitals in the region, San José suffers from traffic congestion at rush hour. While the government is discussing a teleworking law, which would make working hours more flexible, the gaze is directed to the general population’s means of transport, which so far has prioritized the use of private vehicles.
“We had an oil bill of 1.6 billion dollars in 2019,” underlined the First Lady of Costa Rica, Claudia Dobles, within the framework of the conference “P3: People, Planet, Peace”, where she presented the country’s decarbonization plan. The document, which was presented last February, aims for Costa Rica to be emission-free by 2050.
Structured in ten axes, transportation, the sector that generates the most carbon dioxide emissions in the country, is in three of them. In many countries, one of the first decisions to be made is how to change the energy model. “Costa Rica has already done it, opting for a clean model years ago,” recalled the First Lady.
The plan foresees that by 2035, 30 percent of the public transport fleet will be zero emissions and contemplates the launch of an electric passenger train. This project aims to “convert the current train we have, powered by diesel locomotives, into a modern electric train that connects the provincial capitals and the metropolitan area,” San José Mayor Johnny Araya said.
Likewise, “for several years the municipality of San José has been proposing the implementation of an electric train project. It is not the competence of the fast passenger train, since it would serve for internal transport in the city of San José. “It is a 10-kilometer project, in a first stage, connecting the West with the East of the capital. It would have a cost of 230 million dollars ”, the official detailed. It is expected that it can mobilize 150,000 people daily.
German support to modernize the sector
The modernization of public transport goes through the bus system. To do this, it has the support of Germany, which donated 2.5 million euros last November for a pilot project with three electric buses and their respective charging stations, which will operate in San José.
“2021 is key because bus concessions are renewed,” Andrea Meza, Director of Climate Change for Costa Rica, stressed. For this reason, a call has been opened to buy and obtain data on the use of the electric bus such as the number of passengers and the duration of the journeys, among others.
The electric buses are expected to come into operation in the first half of 2020. “They will be circulating on three different routes, operating for a year and a half, making a different route every six months,” Ana Lucía Moya, advisor to said direction.
A public and private effort
Another objective of the decarbonisation plan is that by 2050 there is an integrated public transport system and 85% of the fleet will be zero emissions. Although the First Lady recognized that the goals are “ambitious”, she considered them to be “realistic”. To do this, she requested the collaboration of the private, business and public sectors.
“Electromobility in the country is already taking place, there are electric cars in the private sector, but it is still in coordination,” Juan Carlos Salazar, member of the Board of Directors of the Costa Rican Tourism Transport Association, said. In the case of this sector, the country’s topography and high economic cost of vehicles pose difficulties.
However, he explained that the Costa Rican Tourism Institute is designing quality standards that “come to set the standard as to what type of vehicles we should use.” Salazar is confident that “between now and 2030 we will have 45% of our fleet in electric buses.” However, he pointed out that this requires the help of the banks and more accessible technology.
Turning the challenge into opportunity
Tourism can be one of the beneficiaries of electromobility. In Monteverde, more than 70 tourism companies have joined forces to develop an electric route. “This new modality of ‘Electric Tourism’ will offer entrepreneurs an element of differentiation that will allow them to stand out above their competition,” stated Luis Pérez, from the Commission for Climate Change Resilience (CORCLIMA) of the Municipal Council of Monteverde, promoter of this pioneering initiative.
Thus, “a support network has been created so that people who want to visit Monteverde by electric vehicle, can do so without anxiety that the battery will not last the journey.” To do this, since last May charging points began to be installed in various tourist infrastructures in the community. “The idea is for the Monteverde Electric Route to be ‘the first acorn of a great forest,” said Pérez.