Electric Cars in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a leader in sustainable power – more than 92% of its electricity is derived from renewable resources – and the country has pledged to become carbon-neutral by 2021. In response to its green conscience and eco-attentive consumers, this small nation became one of the first in the region to offer residents a choice of several electric car models.
Electric vehicles, also known as EVs, offer consumers several benefits. They generally have lower maintenance costs than their traditional counterparts and are very reliable due to fewer moving engine parts. Electric cars emit zero pollutant emissions and don't require fill-ups at the gas station (a gallon of regular unleaded fuel currently costs $6 per gallon).
In 2009, the Costa Rican market welcomed its first electric car, the Korean manufactured e-Zone. The tiny two-seater promises a comfortable interior, advanced safety features, and fancy extras like built-in mp3 players. With a range of 31-62 miles per charge, the e-Zone is definitely a commuter car, but at less than $20,000 it's also a bargain for Costa Rican consumers. Electric Cars of Costa Rica, the local distributer for the e-Zone, also offers an all-electric pickup truck.
2009 also saw the arrival of the REVA, a two-door electric vehicle billed as the world's greenest car. This diminutive powerhouse is designed mostly for city use, and is 100% emissions-free. It has a maximum speed of 50 mph, a 50-mile range per 6-hour charge, and is very economical with its $15,000 price tag and $10/monthly estimated electricity consumption (based on 31 miles drive time per day).
February 2011 unveiled the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, a much-awaited addition to the local market. The four-door car runs on lithium-ion batteries and boasts zero carbon emissions, a top speed of 81 mph, and an impressive 94-mile range per 6-hour charge. The i-MiEV has only been offered in Japanese and European markets, and was introduced in Costa Rica before hitting North American, South American and Chinese markets.
After test-driving the i-MiEV, President Laura Chinchilla commented, “Our country has scooped the Americas by being the first country chosen to distribute this ecological and 100% electric vehicle… This new technology will contribute to our initiative for Costa Rica to reach [carbon] neutrality.”
The i-MiEV and its smaller electric counterparts represent a leap forward in the country's dedication to protect its environment, but experts urge that further steps must be taken. The nation's increasing car culture represents 75% of Costa Rica's total C02 emissions, giving off an estimated 12 megatons of carbon dioxide each year. Hybrid and electric vehicles are part of the solution, yet high import taxes make most of these offerings too pricey – the i-MiEV flashes an intimidating price tag of $61,500 – for the average Costa Rican.
To reduce emissions, initiatives are in place to promote ride shares and carpooling, and the "Pico y Placa" law, which governs San Jose city traffic restrictions, exists to reduce weekday traffic in the city. The Costa Rican government has recently pledged to promote clean energy and remove import duties on hybrid, electric and energy-efficient vehicles. However, changes to Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET) policy put those plans on temporary hold. As of 2011, the decree has yet to be signed, though the government still expresses its intention to move forward with a significant tax reduction or elimination in the near future.