Electric mobility on the rise in Costa Rica

Street in Costa Rica with heavy traffic; Photo: Pablo Cambronero/GIZ
Street in Costa Rica with heavy traffic; Photo: Pablo Cambronero/GIZ

In a push to reduce emissions, Costa Rica is electrifying its public transport system.

Costa Rica launched an environmental initiative in early June 2018 that aims to electrify its public transport system in a step-by-step process that will see progressively fewer traditional diesel engines on the roads. 'Costa Rica has to initiate a radical change in its transport sector, not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but air and noise pollution in our cities,' explained Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Costa Rica's Minister of the Environment and Energy, when officially announcing this initiative in San José on 5 June 2018, World Environment Day.

Additionally, on 24 February 2019, Costa Rica's president Carlos Alvarado has announced a long-term, cross-sectoral action plan for greenhouse gas mitigation. Targeted measures in industry, energy, waste, agriculture and transport will be implemented in three blocks until 2050. Currently, the transport sector contributes 44 per cent of Costa Rica's net emissions. In keeping with its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), this Central American country aims to reduce 44% of emissions sector wide (compared to business-as-usual). This equates to a 25 per cent drop compared to 2012. That's 170,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalents per year up to 2030. The new decarbonization plan anchors important milestones that are necessary for reaching these ambitious goals, including the modernization of public transport, the introduction of a fast passenger train and the complete electrification of buses, trains and taxis.

Line of busses on a busy road; Photo: Pablo Cambronero/GIZA pilot project is currently appraising the enabling conditions required for the successful rollout of electric mobility in Costa Rica's public transport system. This includes analysing new travel routes and determining suitable locations for installing charging infrastructure. Together with national energy provider ICE a charging strategy is being developed. It is also necessary to price ticket fares and set electricity tariffs for the bus companies. Numerous workshops will be organised to explain the various financing models to bus service operators while bus drivers will undergo training to enable them to handle the new electric busses.

Initially, three electric busses are to be deployed in the GAM - Gran Area Metropolitana - together with the requisite charging infrastructure. Experts from Chile, where 100 electric busses were recently integrated into the capital Santiago's public transport system, are advising on the acquisition of the busses. Comprising the capital city of San José and its surrounding urban areas of Alajuela, Heredia and Cartrago, the GAM is made up of 64 districts which are home to around 60 per cent of the Costa Rican population. Germany's Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) is supporting the initiative with EUR 2.5 million as part of its International Climate Initiative (IKI). Around EUR 660.000 has been pledged by the Costa Rica-United States Foundation for Cooperation (CRUSA). The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is promoting the initiative as part of the IKI-backed MiTransporte project together with Costa Rica's Ministry of the Environment and Energy and Ministry of Public Works and Transport, as well as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). As part of these activities, GIZ is working closely with the private sector, several bus companies, national non-governmental organisations and multilateral and local banks.

Busses are numerous in Costa Rica's traffic; Photo: Pablo Camronero/GIZ'We are very pleased to be supporting the Costa Rican Government with the rollout of a safe, climate-friendly public transport system that will enhance its users' quality of life and cut greenhouse gas emissions thanks to the use of new clean technologies,' said Andreas Villar, Country Director for GIZ Costa Rica.

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