Costa Rica’s response to range anxiety

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In a small town outside of Tamarindo, Douglas Anderson recently decided to join the network. As an electrician, he had tried to convince local businesses to offer charging options. “When people see that there are other communities behind this, they realize it’s not just me with futuristic ideas.”

Information sharing is a key advantage of Rutas Eléctricas. What has been learned in Monteverde – the importance of installing 240 outlet points, what types of adapters are best, how to avoid outlet bugs – is being shared with other communities. Corclima is developing a comprehensive membership manual as well as a register allowing companies to track usage.

“Most business owners have joined us in attracting new clients,” says Luis Perez, the first coordinator of Ruta Eléctrica in Monteverde who now works with an adventure tourism company. “They aren’t necessarily interested in networking and connecting. But the other 20% have become advocates and they are spreading the idea.”

In Fortuna, businesses are showing renewed interest in joining the network as tourism returns. “What is really changing is that everyone from the security guard to the receptionist is now familiar with electric vehicles. They see the panels and the chargers, and they start to see electric cars, ”says Adriana Comacho, coordinator of Ruta Eléctrica Fortuna and an environmental manager at Tabacón, a spa and hot spring hotel.

While electric vehicles represent only a small fraction of the 1.4 million cars on Costa Rica’s roads, the numbers are expected to grow exponentially by 2023. This can lead to challenges ahead, such as how businesses can recoup the cost of electricity. Electricity being nationalized, only public services are allowed to sell it. Corclima has designed a tool that calculates the cost of recharging certain cars in the hope that it will help small businesses track electricity costs as electric vehicles evolve.

But right now, most business owners aren’t worried about electricity costs. Johnny Calderon, the owner of Flow Trips, a travel agency in La Fortuna, had his first visit from an electric vehicle user this month. He and his wife started to clap and take pictures. Although the driver didn’t buy a tour, the entire Calderon family gathered around the car to watch it load. “I don’t care if it takes a long time to get VE customers. I want to be part of the change. Maybe someday it will have an economic benefit, but that’s not why I’m doing it.”

To report this story, BBC Future drove 60 miles (97 km) in an electric vehicle, for which we do not have precise estimates of CO2 emissions. The digital emissions of this story are estimated at 1.2g to 3.6g of CO2 per page viewed. Learn more about how we calculated that number here.

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