Electric all the way – from Panama to Paris.

The United Nations is relying on the rise of electromobility to meet the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement. In Latin America, the BMW Group and its BMW i brand are therefore supporting the regional UN office by sharing their e-mobility expertise. The aim is to boost interest in electromobility among the local population and bring about a change in awareness.

Panama City could save around 500 million US dollars by 2030 – if all buses and taxis currently run on petrol or diesel were replaced by electric alternatives. This was one of the findings of a recent study conducted by the United Nations Environmental Programme. But switching to electromobility would not just be lucrative for Panama City; Bogotá, Santiago de Chile, São Paulo and other cities in Latin America and the Caribbean would also benefit from this approach. And not just for financial reasons: According to the UN study, life expectancy would also increase significantly if pollution were reduced. This would be an important step towards limiting global warming to less than two degrees – one of the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement that was also signed by the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

But how can city officials be swayed to switch their fleets to electric? Would legislation speed up the move towards electromobility significantly? And, most importantly: How can private users be persuaded to choose an electric car over a petrol model?

The United Nations’ Latin America and Caribbean Office is working closely with BMW i to answer these questions. “We have agreed on a long-term collaboration to advance electromobility in the region. We want to raise awareness, promote the technology and develop sustainable solutions together with the local population and governments”, explains Oliver Rosenthal, head of BMW i in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean. Leo Heilemann, director of the UN Environmental Programme for the Latin America and Caribbean region, adds: “For the countries of Latin America, popularising electromobility is key to meeting the resolutions of the Paris Climate Agreement.”

In recent months, the UN Office, BMW i and other partners conducted a joint study to identify the factors contributing to acceptance and growth of electromobility in Latin America. The study’s findings, now published on the debate platform “The Dialogue”, are somewhat surprising: As expected, financial inducements, such as incentives for electric cars and higher taxes for petrol models, as well as widespread availability of charging stations, have a positive impact on the spread of electromobility. But it turns out nothing is as important as personal experience with electric cars: After a certain delay, cities where electric vehicles are integrated into carsharing fleets, for example, report an increase in sales of electric models.

The study emphasises the importance of personal exposure to electromobility in Latin America. When people experience electric driving for themselves, they become multipliers. This is the way to gradually change people’s thinking: As a symbol of comfort, driving pleasure and status, gas-guzzling SUVs could soon give way to clean, quiet electric vehicles.

To achieve this, BMW i will be running campaigns and hosting information events in selected Latin American and Caribbean cities in conjunction with the UN. The idea is to give people interested in buying a new car the chance to try electromobility for themselves. For this purpose, the carmaker is providing the UN Office with a number of BMW i3s.

The cooperation with the UN also includes targeted information for policymakers and public officials. Workshops and panel discussions will develop strategies focused on building a foundation for promoting electromobility at national level. There is no need to reinvent the wheel: Thanks to its international expertise, BMW i can call upon a network of experts to share best practices from other regions of the world. Together with local decision-makers, they can consider which concepts might be particularly promising in Latin America and the Caribbean.