The future of electric vehicles in Brazil

This article analyses the future of electric vehicle in Brazil by stakeholders’ perspective. It was conducted a survey with public, private and third sectors. The socio-techno-economic and political-environmental-innovation variables and a SWOT analysis was performed.

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Governments around the world are considering electric mobility as an important resource to decarbonize the energy and transport sectors and mitigate climate change (IEA, 2020) since, by life cycle analysis (LCA), EV is more environmentally friendly than internal combustion engines (ICE), especially when supplied with renewable energy (Costa et al., 2017). An ethanol powered car in Brazil emits almost four times more CO2 than a compatible electric vehicle (Costa et al., 2020). According to the International Energy Agency (IEA, 2020), EV30@30 Scenario, 30% of global passenger vehicle sales in 2030 will come from electric vehicles (including battery-electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicle types). This could mean around 44 million cars on the road (IEA, 2020).

Since 2011, the EV sales are almost doubled each year in some regions of North America, Asia and in Europe (IEA, 2020), but in Brazil the situation is quite different. Currently, Brazilian policies do not promote the difussion of electric mobility. The country prioritizes ethanol to mitigate CO2 emissions from the transport sector. In 2019, more than 92% of the Brazilian cars sold were flex-fuel – meaning they run on ethanol and gasoline at the same time. Ethanol represents around 50% of the fuel consumption of road transport in Brazil (EPE, 2018; ANFAVEA, 2020). However, ethanol may not be the best solution to mitigate climate change, as it can cause damage to the environment with deforestation, water and air pollution, and risks associated with food competition (Filoso et al., 2015; Gauder et al., 2011; Costa, 2019).

To understand how the future of EV will be in the country – Brazil is in the top ten of the world automotive industry (OICA, 2020) – a study entitled “Diffusion of electric vehicles in Brazil from the stakeholders' perspective” was carried out with public, private and third sector organizations. The socio-techno-economic (Geels et al., 2017; Scalise et al., 2018) and political-environmental-innovation (Sovacool & Hirsh, 2009; Steinhilber et al., 2013; Costa et al., 2020) variables were explored in the survey. Among the questions asked for stakeholders were: should Brazil mass-market electric vehicles? What will the future of the electric car be in the country? What technology should be prioritized: electric car or ethanol car? What are the most important characteristics for the Brazilian electric car?

The transport in climate change context: electric car is not ethanol competitor but complementary technology

Energy consumption and CO2 emissions from the transport have proved to be a huge challenge for governments worldwide. Globally, from 2008 to 2017, there was an increase of nearly 40% in energy consumption from transport sector, with road transport accounting for more than 90% (IEA, 2020). CO2 emissions from transport is a problem in Brazil as well. In 2014, the transport sector represented more than 32% of energy consumption in the country with road transportation accounting for more than 92% of that amount (EPE, 2015).

To decarbonize the transport sector, Brazil has adopted some initiatives, such as ethanol, the Program for the Brazilian automobile industry ROTA 2030, and emission control programs by the Ministry of the Environment (Costa, 2019).

The EV from the stakeholders' perspective: electric cars are the best technology for the Brazil

The survey received feedback from Brazilian leaders in transport, energy and government sectors. The survey (sent for 629 stakeholders) was grouped into five phases: diffusion (EV market penetration), performance of the vehicle, environment, convenience of use, and acceptability. In summary, the predominant view was: first, the stakeholders do not consider electric car as ethanol competitor but as complementary technology. Most of respondents, especially from industry sector, believe that if the EV gets government incentives it will account for up to 20% of the market share in Brazil in 2030.

Government and private companies’ fleets can be the best way to mass-market EV in Brazil

Second, most respondents consider the electric car as the best technology for the country with ethanol as the second option. Third, they believe the diffusion of the EV could provide new economic activities, such as the battery industry, software industry, as well as new business models to explore CaaS activities. They further think them, society and consumers would benefit most from the expansion of EVs in Brazil. Fourth, they consider that the electric car in Brazil should have a top speed of 120 km/h, and a range of 300 km, and should be able to recharge in less than an hour in public chargers.

Finally, the study pointed out that one feasible route to diffusion of EVs would be if the Brazilian government chooses to expand the electric car into government and private companies’ fleets in which EVs can become economically beneficial and operationally attractive (Costa et al., 2020). 

The study was carried out with the support of the Institute of Transportation Studies of the University of California (UC Davis), USA; Mobility and Automotive Technology Research Center (MOBI) of Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, and Center for Environmental and Sustainability Research (CENSE) of NOVA University of Lisbon, Portugal and receivedlogistical assistance from ANFAVEA.

The complete study can be accessed HERE.


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Steinhilber, S., Wells, P. & Thankappan, S., 2013. Socio-technical inertia: Understanding the barriers to electric vehicles. Energy policy, 60, pp.531–539.

Evaldo Costa

Post-Doctor Researcher, UNL

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