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Bolivia Hopes to Popularize Electric Cars and Lithium

Launched in 2019, Quantum Motors has only sold 350 electric cars in Bolivia. But their founders recently received a boost from the German city of Bonn, which invested 50,000 euros to acquire six units in support of a local program. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Bolivia Hopes to Popularize Electric Cars and Lithium
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Bolivia has developed a special program to make its electric vehicles more popular so the country can one day put an important resource it has to use.

On a recent, cold morning, Dr. Carlos Ortuño used a small electric car from Quantum Motors to go see a patient outside of Bolivia’s capital La Paz. He was unsure if the vehicle could deal with the difficult streets or the thin mountain air.

“I thought that because of the city’s topography it was going to struggle, but it’s a great climber,” said Ortuño about his experience driving a Quantum.

It is the first electric vehicle (EV) to have ever been made in Bolivia. He added, “The difference from a gasoline-powered vehicle is huge.”

Ortuño took the small EV to the patient’s home as part of a government program that brings doctors to patients living in neighborhoods away from the city center.

The La Paz administrative area launched the “doctor in your house” program recently using six EV’s manufactured by Quantum Motors. The business is Bolivia’s only producer of electric cars.

“It is a pioneering idea. It helps protect the health of those in need, while protecting the environment and supporting local production,” La Paz Mayor Iván Arias said.

The program could also help expand Quantum Motors, a company launched four years ago by a group of businessmen who believe EVs will change the car industry in Bolivia.

The Quantum is built like a box and moves at no more than 56 kilometers per hour. It can be recharged from a household outlet and can travel 80 kilometers before it needs to be recharged.

Its creators hope the $7,600 car will make electric cars something the public will accept.

An employee works on a Quantum electric car on an assembly line at a factory in Cochabamba, Bolivia on May 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
An employee works on a Quantum electric car on an assembly line at a factory in Cochabamba, Bolivia on May 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

José Carlos Márquez is a representative from Quantum Motors. He said electric cars “will prevail worldwide in the next few years, but it will be different in different countries.”

He added the U.S. car company Tesla will be important in the U.S. But he said cars in Latin America will be smaller, because their streets are more similar to those of Bombay and New Delhi than those of California.

The company’s effort to expand EVs in the South American country has not been easy. In the four years since its release, Quantum Motors has sold about 350 cars in Bolivia. The company did not say how many have been sold in Peru and Paraguay.

The company is also set to open a factory in Mexico later this year. But no further details have been provided about the project.

Quantum Motors’ investment in battery-powered cars seems to make sense. Bolivia has an estimated 21 million metric tons of the metal lithium, the most in the world. Lithium is an important material used in making some kinds of batteries. But Bolivia does not produce industrial amounts of the metal.

Almost all cars being used in Bolivia are powered by carbon-based fuels. The government pays part of the cost of gasoline fuel to keep the price down.

Marco Antonio Rodriguez repairs cars in La Paz. He said the Quantum does not cost a lot, but he said it does not have the abilities of a gasoline-powered car. He said people might change their minds if the government stops gasoline price supports.

The makers of the Quantum hope programs like “the doctor in your house” will expand production and spread more EVs across the area. The program is supposed to double in size and expand to other neighborhoods next year.

“We are ready to grow,” said Márquez. “Our inventory has been sold out through July.”

I’m Gregory Stachel.

Carlos Valdez reported this story for The Associated Press. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

topography n. the features (such as mountains and rivers) in an area of land

pioneer v. to help create or develop (new ideas or methods)

outletn. a device in a wall into which an electric cord can be plugged in order to provide electricity for a lamp or television

recharge –v. to add electrical charge to a battery

prevailv. to defeat an opponent especially in a long or difficult contest

battery n. a device that is placed inside a machine (such as a clock, toy, or car) to supply it with electricity

inventory n. a supply of goods that are stored in a place


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