Sao Paulo-based startup, Leoparda Electric, wants to be the Gogoro of Latin America. In other words, it wants to create a network of battery swapping stations that will help in the adoption of electric two-wheelers in the region.
While LatM is the second largest two-wheeler market after Southeast Asia, the growth of electrification in the region has been slow. That is partly due to policies, or lack thereof. While many LatAm countries have set some rough targets for zero-emission sales or internal combustion engine phase-outs, inadequate financial incentives, weak regulatory policies, lack of public awareness and inadequate charging infrastructure have affected the sector in any form. The adoption of EVs has been stopped. According to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation.
Jack Sarvari, co-founder and CEO of Leoparda Electric, told TechCrunch that he thinks couriers could be the key to electric two-wheeler adoption in the region. Prior to founding Leopard with ex-Tesla Billy Blaustein, Sarvari worked for six years at Rapy, the DoorDash version of LatM, where he led operations, product and rapid delivery. Sarvari says that in Latin America, motorcycle use is commercial, with commuters preferring to use public transport or private cars.
“They do about 100 kilometers per day, which means they spend a lot on gasoline, which means they have a lot to save by switching to electricity,” Sarvari told TechCrunch. “Electricity is 10 to 1 cheaper than gas. The problem is that there is no infrastructure to support it. So if we build the infrastructure, we enable them to access these huge potential savings “
When it comes to electrification adoption, there is always a chicken and egg problem. Do we put in infrastructure first or put people on vehicles first? Gogoro realized earlier this year that “both,” opt to build their own electric scooter with a swappable battery, which it will sell to commuters, as well as use for a scooter-sharing scheme, and the battery at once. Build swapping stations. ,
While Leopard’s core business is battery swapping, the startup aims to do something similar by putting together a subscription package that includes an electric motorcycle or seated scooter, unlimited battery swaps, maintenance and insurance. Leopard is importing two-wheelers from four different Chinese OEMs, which means it will initially operate with four different batteries, unlike the Gogoro. (Swobi, a Berlin competitor, is doing something similar with smaller micromobility vehicles in Europe.)
The courier cost should be met in So Paulo, Brazil, where Leopard will first launch, around $200 a month. Sarvari says that usually around 50% of what the courier spends on vehicle financing, gas, insurance and other expenses.
To make the switch to electricity not only cost-effective but also convenient, Leopard will first open its battery swapping locations in the geographically concentrated areas where most couriers operate. Over time, the service will expand region by region. But first, Leopard has to figure out how to enable users to swap their batteries.
When Leopard launches in December, the startup will rent out a few small spaces for some basic battery charging operations — think some shelving with extension cords and a staff who trades dead batteries for new ones. . But as the company scales, it will need to consolidate operations. This is where the leopard’s recent upbringing comes in.
The company just closed an $8.5 million seed round co-led by Monashes and Construct Capital — which it will use to get started on hardware development for the charging cabinet.
“The cost of charging a battery with a bunch of shelves behind a human where you’re paying the rent, even in Latin America, yes, we can do that in five or 10 places. We want to go beyond that, it’s going to be possible very quickly,” Sarvari said.
Over time and as the company scales, Leopard will want to work on developing its own swappable battery optimized for a longer lifetime, which will better serve Leopard’s business model by reducing costs.
“There’s an untapped potential in Latin America for all kinds of people who want to work on projects like this, who want to work on something green,” Sarvari said. “Being the first, there is an exciting opportunity to capture all that talent across the region.”