Quantum Motors, the sole producer of electric cars in Bolivia, has launched a government-sponsored program called “Doctor in your house” that brings doctors to patients living in neighborhoods far from the city center. The program uses six Quantum electric cars, which are the first EVs ever made in Bolivia. Dr. Carlos Ortuño, who drove a Quantum to visit a patient in the outskirts of La Paz, said that the car was a great climber and that the difference from a gasoline-powered vehicle was huge. La Paz Mayor Ivan Arias called the program a pioneering idea that protects the health of those in need while protecting the environment and supporting local production.
Built like a box, the Quantum electric car moves no more than 35 mph, can be recharged from a household outlet, and can travel 50 miles before a recharge. Its creators hope that the $7,600 car will revive dreams of a lithium-powered economy and make electric cars something the masses will embrace. Bolivia is a lithium-rich country, but cheap, subsidized imported gasoline is still the norm.
José Carlos Márquez, general manager of Quantum Motors, said that e-mobility will prevail worldwide in the next few years, but it will be different in different countries. He said that cars will be more compact in Latin America because the streets are more similar to those of Bombay and New Delhi than to those of California.
Quantum Motors’ bet on battery-powered cars makes sense when it comes to Bolivia’s resources. With an estimated 21 million tons, Bolivia has the world’s largest reserve of lithium, a key component in electric batteries, but it has yet to extract and industrialize its vast resources of the metal. In the meantime, the large majority of vehicles in circulation are still powered by fossil fuels, and the government continues to pour millions of dollars into subsidizing imported fuel that is then sold at half the price to the domestic market.
The makers of the Quantum car hope that programs like “Doctor in your house,” which is scheduled to double in size and extend to other neighborhoods next year, will help boost production and churn out more EVs across the region. Although Quantum Motors has sold barely 350 cars in Bolivia and an undisclosed number of units in Peru and Paraguay in the four years since it released its first EVs, the company is set to open a factory in Mexico later this year. Márquez said, “We are ready to grow. Our inventory has been sold out through July.”
Marco Antonio Rodriguez, a car mechanic in La Paz, thinks that the Quantum car might be cheap, but he does not think it has the capacity of a gasoline-powered car. However, he acknowledges that people might change their mind once the government puts an end to gasoline subsidies.