Electric Mobility, a Global Trend in Which Mexico Must Make Progress

It is estimated that there are approximately 16 million electric vehicles in circulation worldwide. Up to 40 percent cheaper each kilometer traveled in an electric car, compared to gasoline ones.

Electric Mobility, a Global Trend in Which Mexico Must Make Progress
The case for promoting electric mobility in Mexico City. Image: UNAM

From 2019 to 2021, sales of electric vehicles in the world will triple from 2.2 million to 6.6 million, equivalent to nine percent of the total global automotive market, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In this regard, Jesús Antonio del Río Portilla, a researcher at UNAM's Institute of Renewable Energies, said: Mexico needs to move towards electromobility since there is a global trend to use more electric vehicles, and also to meet the goal that the country subscribed to at the last United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), to eliminate combustion cars by 2035.

It is necessary to generate electricity with renewable sources because today's energy matrix is anchored in fossil fuels and the proposed electricity reform indicates that, at least in the next three years, clean energy plants will not be installed in the country.

Science continues to advance, scientists are working to generate solutions. "The electric car is expensive, but it may not be. In the beginning, this technology costs more, but we have to make people who use fossil fuels and can avoid them, do so. How can this be achieved? By not subsidizing gasoline," he said.

The International Energy Agency also estimates that there are approximately 16 million electric vehicles circulating in the world, which consume approximately 30 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity per year, equivalent to the total electricity generated in Ireland.

Puma developments

In the Faculty of Engineering of the National University, there are different teams or groups of students working on prototypes of electric cars, involving approximately 90 students of Mechatronics, Electrical Electronics, software, Industrial, etc.

One of these teams is "Dzec", which is working on the development of a unit that works in the city. There is also the Formula SAE team, focused on racing cars, said Enrique Munive Roldán, a member of the first-mentioned team.

The advances that each one has complement each other, said the mechatronics engineer. "For example, if one works on speed, the other works on efficiency. While one team implements existing technologies, the other develop them," said the also member of the Electromechanics Laboratory of the Institute of Engineering.

In Mexico, there will be more electric cars when their cost is reduced and to the extent that more infrastructure is installed, such as recharging stations. "The greater use of hybrid cars is a necessary step," he acknowledged.

Preparing for the transition

Jesús Antonio del Río, Ph.D. in Science, explained that in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, each kilometer traveled in this type of vehicle is 30 or 40 percent cheaper compared to a combustion vehicle; they heat up less and are quieter.

Ten years ago, no electric cars were manufactured in Mexico and there is currently more than one company established in the country; there are even others with Mexican capital and technology. However, they export most of their production because government policies are focused on gasoline cars and on subsidizing this energy source.

"The supplier industry for the automakers in our country must prepare for the transition to electric vehicles. If not, these assemblers will migrate to other parts of the planet with the consequent unemployment and impoverishment of the population," warned the co-director of the Renewable Energies Unit of the Latin American Physics Center.

The changes in this industrial branch are accelerated, for example, 10 years ago the autonomy of electric vehicles was of the order of 100 kilometers, today it is more than 200, emphasized the expert.

"If you use it to move around the city, and autonomy of 100 kilometers is enough and these vehicles are charged, at most, in eight hours. So, you could go to work, travel 100 kilometers or more, and when you get home, charge it at night," he said.

In Mexico, there is a need for fast charging stations (approximately 30 minutes), as is the case with highways. One option would be, as other countries are doing, to install them in rest areas where people can eat or rest their vehicle while it is being recharged.

Sustainable transportation

In Mexico, transportation is responsible for 25.1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the National Inventory of Greenhouse Gas and Compound Emissions 2015. Del Río Portilla proposed promoting the use of electric units for public transportation fleets, starting with granting credits to the owners of these vehicles, which they could pay in installments, for example, of five years.

"We did studies for the cities of Cuernavaca and Morelia and it is profitable, from the economic point of view, to buy electricity from the Federal Electricity Commission. In addition, if photovoltaic panels are installed at their terminals, the cost is 30 percent lower and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by more than 70 percent," he said.

At UNAM's Institute of Renewable Energies, he has directed students' theses with proposals for moto-taxis to use electric units in the country's magical towns, which could be paid for in three years.

"I am not saying that we should only move in electric cars, but that we should move in more sustainable ways. In the United States and Europe, we see more and more electric cars, but in Europe, there are many people also moving around on bicycles, because there is adequate infrastructure," he commented.

For this reason, the university expert estimated that policies and programs should be promoted to have confined, safe bicycle lanes so that people opt for non-motorized transportation, which today is an option to avoid contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus. "It is necessary to promote the use of bicycles and change the paradigm because today the infrastructure is designed more to move cars than people," he remarked.