Sustainable Mobility in Costa Rica: A Duel Between Hydrogen and Electricity in the Future of Automotive Transport

    Searching for clean solutions to reduce the carbon footprint

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    The automotive transport sector is immersed in a period of transcendental and accelerated changes, marked by the drive towards sustainable mobility and the search for clean solutions to reduce the carbon footprint.

    In this new era, two technologies are vying for dominance in the transportation of the future: hydrogen and electricity. Alejandro Rubinstein, CEO of Grupo Purdy, warns that this contest will completely transform the industry in the coming years.

    In his opinion, the changes that will be seen in the next decade will be greater than those of the last century.“I think I am not exaggerating that what we are going to experience in the next 10 or 15 years is going to be similar to the changes we had when we went from riding a horse to an internal combustion car,” he commented.

    The prognosis on which technology will prevail is still hard to tell

    “It wouldn’t be strange to think that we have times when we’re going to drive electric battery technology and other hydrogen-powered vehicles, among many other things that may happen in the future,” he said.

    Way ahead

    In recent years, sustainable mobility has been gaining ground in the automotive industry.Despite the uncertainty about which technology will prevail in the long term, Rubinstein acknowledges that the one linked to electricity has quickly gained momentum in Costa Rica.

    “Electric (technology) is clearly the one that is gaining the most speed. In Costa Rica, last year, 6% of the vehicles sold were electric and this year we are already at around 11%,” he explained.

    Technology is also evolving by leaps and bounds, especially in the field of energy sources

    “Today we have lithium batteries and Toyota has already announced that it has batteries that are known as solid state. These solid-state batteries are half the weight of current batteries and can be charged in 20 to 30 minutes, which has been one of the most challenging issues, perhaps for some of the drivers,” he added.

    Aware of this reality, Rubinstein announced that the Purdy Group has already secured an order for 1,500 units of 100% electric vehicles that will arrive by the end of the year, to offer them to customers interested in this mode of transport.

    In terms of hydrogen, the Group is not far behind either. In 2022, it announced the creation of Cavendish, a subsidiary that will offer solutions related to the field of mobility and industrial application. Technologies linked to green hydrogen will be in its catalogue.This is a type of energy that particularly Toyota, the leading brand within the company, has promoted internationally.

    Freight transportation, a challenge

    Freight transport is perhaps the main challenge to be solved for the automotive industry that is moving towards sustainable mobility.Although electric technology is presented as a viable solution for the transport of light vehicles, there are challenges when it comes to transporting cargo.

    Rubinstein points out that electric technology is not yet convenient due to the weight of the batteries and the energy required to transport them. In this sense, hydrogen emerges as an alternative.

    “Hydrogen is emerging as a more appropriate technology for the transport of cargo and mass transport of people. I don’t know what will happen in 10 or 15 years, but if the hydrogen supply infrastructure begins to become massive so that these vehicles can be filled with this fuel, it may be that passenger vehicles will also move towards this technology”, he reflected.

    Necessary adaptations

    Currently, all the infrastructure and services for the automotive industry are mainly designed for vehicles with mechanical and combustion components. Hence, a rapid adaptation to new technologies will be necessary.

    “We are looking for how – in general, the industry – to get involved in this, which is still quite uncertain and that requires us to have flexibility and agility,” explained Rubinstein.

    “Today we work a lot with mechanical parts. In a few years we will have more software engineers working in the workshops, it is an important change”, added the CEO of Grupo Purdy.

    He highlighted that one of the most challenging challenges on the road to clean mobility is the availability of supplies for vehicles. The microchip crisis and the difficulty in obtaining raw materials for batteries represent a significant obstacle for the industry.“This is possibly one of the biggest challenges we have going forward,” Rubinstein acknowledged.

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