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Electifying news from Mexico City bureacracy

14 May 2007

Now… if they can just take care of the 4 hour morning rush hour…

(Entire article at EVWorld.com)

All revolutions start small. This one began with a bicycle.

As directed by His Honor Marcelo Ebrard. the mayor of Mexico City, the head of the Secretaria de Desarrollo Social (Department of Social Development) rode his bicycle to work along with hundreds of other city employees. Attired in a snappy dark blue pin-stripe suit and yellow silk tie, Marti Batres is one of the leading progressives in the Ebrard administration that some three months ago ordered all senior city officials to park their cars and ride bicycles to their jobs in downtown Mexico City the first Monday of every month.

There was the expected grousing, but supported by loyal officials like Batres, the mayor stood firm and said that if his senior managers weren’t willing to follow his example and ride their bikes too, they would no longer be considered a part of his administration. The mass of executives and secretaries peddling into the Zocalo, the historic central plaza of the city, resembles a Tour de France peloton.

But on this Monday, Marti, as he’s popularly known (it is speculated that he could be the next mayor of the city), left his cyclist’s helmet in his office and with a trusted advisor, got behind the wheel of a freshly repainted 1997 Nissan Tsuru (called Sentra in the United States) and headed out of the basement parking garage of the municipal building and south along an expressway toward a favorite neighbor restaurant for lunch. But unlike the tens of thousands of Tsurus owned by the Federal District, which encompasses Greater Mexico City and its 22 million inhabitants, this one is unique. It is all-electric.

The story behind this unusual car goes back more than a year when a local businessman named Victor Juarez G. got tired of waiting for someone to develop an affordable electric car. $100,000 electric sports cars weren’t going to cut it in Mexico, except for a very few of the very wealthy. What was needed was someone to figure out a way to convert thousands of already existing vehicles to electric and Mexico City’s fleet of tireless Tsurus seemed the ideal candidate.

So, Juarez G. began having discussions with senior officials like Batres, the Transportation Secretary Amando Quintero and Fernando Menendez, the mayor’s advisor and a former World Bank executive, who proudly showed off to me the Brompton folding bike he rides to work the first Monday of each month. With their encouragement, Juarez G. began a year-long search for companies who could economically convert a Tsuru.

To prevent the project from getting bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape, Juarez G. decided to keep it in private hands. He enlisted the aid of six long-time friends and business associates who formed Electro Autos Eficaces de Mexico or EAE.

Tsurus have replaced the Vocho (the Mexican VW bug, which stayed in production until 2005) as the Mexican car of all work, and as the mainstay of the taxi and bureaucratic fleet. They’re not the most stylish of cars, but they seem to last forever, and are a lot roomier than the old Vocho. When Lopez Obradór was running the city, he was famous for NOT showing up with an armored SUV (or, like Vicente Fox, an armored Dodge Ram pickup… or, following back surgery, an armored VW microbus).

In other electric vehicle news, Armor Electric of Solana Beach California sent out a press release announcing the successful completion of testing on a three-wheeled electric taxi for Mexico City’s cab fleet.

I don’t know what the city’s electric bill is going to be like, but I know what mine is… and it still needs paid:

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 14 May 2007 12:13 pm

    Richard,

    Since you mentioned folding bikes, is cycling really a viable transportation option in Mexico City? I heard that there was 1 bike trail in the capital city and I understand that the auto traffic is out of control.

    Also, does Mexico tax its citizens for buying goods shipped from the USA?

  2. 14 May 2007 2:06 pm

    Bicycles are used pretty widely for deliveries and at least local transit now (it’s nothing to see a two or three meter high stack of papers or magazines balanced on the back of a bike in the AM headed for the newsstands. In my old neighborhood, there was an old man who used to sell gelatinas on Sunday night off his bike)… if you’re including the 3-wheeled bicycle-carts and the pedicabs, they always have been important.
    One thing to remember is that until recently people generally lived close to work and shopping… and still do. One part of getting the bureacracy out of their cars is transferring people to satellite offices within a reasonable commute. Banks and other major employers are also moving people based on where they live, and offering incentives to employees to move closer to their jobs.

    Auto traffic is horrendous, but then, the metro and buses and streets are crowded too.
    Products between NAFTA countries are not taxable, but Chinese-made parts are highly taxed in Mexico.

  3. 15 May 2007 10:58 pm

    I’ve always felt that while there are too many cars and too many long commutes in DF, the problems are aggravated by bad driving habits (motorists crowding intersections, etc.) I ride the bus here. It’s cheap and often unsatisfactory, but I’m scared to ride a bike in Guadalajara. Being a pedestrian is bad enough.

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