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Portugal and Brazil to collaborate on an affordable EV

CEiiA’s ‘Project Mobicar’ to be manufactured in Brazil after state-supported deal

Earlier this month, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa and Brazilian President Michel Temer announced an agreement between the two countries to design, produce and sell an affordable EV. Portuguese technology firm CEiiA and the Brazilian Itaipu Technological Park (PTI) were signed up to develop and manufacture the car, respectively.

Project Mobicar marks CEiiA’s first foray into designing its own car from scratch, but the company has had its innovations implemented in vehicles from major auto companies such as Volkswagen, Porsche and Renault. Established in 1999, one of the company’s latest ventures has been to develop an EV sharing network with Renault in Europe.

According to the company, focus will now be on the production of an EV for South American and European markets. The partnership’s approach will be to develop a widely affordable model that could be quickly brought to the mass market. This is in contrast to the likes of Tesla and other major auto companies which have opted for a top-down approach to EV manufacture.

Tesla, for example, entered the market with its exclusive Roadster in 2008, which cost US$110,000. That was followed by the US$72,000 Model S, with a view to producing less expensive cars further down the line. The problem with this approach to mass-market development is that it’s slow; next year’s Model 3 will still cost upwards of US$35,000, far too expensive for the average car owner in South America. Whilst the top-down approach may work in the US, in countries such as Brazil, it could be a while before a truly globally affordable Tesla arrives.

The project is in is very early stages so far, and no technical specs or prices have been revealed yet. The prototype resembles a Smart car –in fact it looks quite a bit like the rumoured Google car – so it is probably safe to assume the car will be aimed at cities and could well trade off range for a reduced price. If it is to be competitive in South American markets, it is unlikely to cost much beyond US$15,000.

mobicar

The bottom-up approach to affordable EVs

If the world is to make speedy progress towards EV adoption, affordable vehicles must be introduced sooner rather than later. As mentioned, Tesla’s approach is nowhere near quick enough outside of wealthier Western nations, and most major automakers don’t seem to be moving much faster. If manufacturers are serious about targeting countries such as Brazil in the near future, a bottom-up approach will likely be crucial.

A comparable project to Mobicar is that of the Mahindra e2o, an Indian EV initially launched in 2013. Adoption of the vehicle in India did get off to rather a slow start with only 400 cars purchased in the first year. Many were concerned that the starting price of the equivalent of US$15,000 was too high for the Indian market. Indian government initiatives have helped boost e2o sales to 1000 a year in both 2015 and 2016, although this is still modest.

But ambitions for lower prices have been steadily growing. Recently, although it offered little in the way of detail, Nissan announced its intention to target the Chinese market with a US$8,000 EV.

If the Mobicar can get anywhere near that price, alongside the right government incentives, its prospects in South America and Europe will look very positive indeed. It may be early days, but the collaboration between manufacturers and governments is encouraging, and more initiatives like these will be vital to driving low-carbon personal transport outside of the West.

 

About Harry Locke

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