Havana is flooded with electric motorcycles amid a shortage of diesel


Havana (AP) —Young people ride electric bikes, stunt and talk about motorcycles on this highway outside the Cuban capital. If there is no music from the speakers, it will be almost quiet.

Cuba has been flooded with “motrinas” in recent years, as electric scooters being promoted by the government as an efficient alternative in the face of extreme gas and diesel shortages and as a solution to national transportation problems are called on the island. I am.

Authorities have allowed imports over the last decade, and Cubans cannot import motorcycles with gasoline or diesel engines. Since then, about 300,000 vehicles have been circulating around the island, said Colonel Mariolios Labrada, Head of Vehicle Registration at the National Transport Authority. By comparison, there are an estimated 500,000 cars.

Motorcycle costs range from $ 2,000 to $ 5,000. Many were born in China and imported to Cuba via Panama. Cuban officials say a locally made electric bike called “Minerva” is produced in an old bicycle manufacturing warehouse in Villa Clara.

“There is an” outbreak “of electric bikes, and everyone loves it,” said Ernesto Jose Salazar, a 20-year-old who works at a paint shop. “We met 200 motorcycles and played and listened to music.”

Young riders organize through social networks and spend hours discussing the benefits of batteries, where to buy tires and where to find the best workshops.

“Fuel is the cause of the loss. You have to line up looking for it. Having an electric bike here right now is life itself,” Alejandro Vasaro, 23.

Cuban drivers are facing a shortage of fuel. Diesel, in particular, is also used to power generators that power the power grids of countries that collapsed this summer. Oil shortages have been caused by the difficulties of Venezuela, an island ally and supplier, and US sanctions.

The driver of an electric scooter recharges the battery through a regular power socket and is out of luck when the supply drops.

Cuban officials have touted electric motors as an energy-efficient alternative to public transportation, suffering from a shortage of parts to repair broken buses and fuel shortages.

“Electricity is always cheaper than diesel fuel and gasoline, and electric motors are much more efficient than combustion engines, saving up to 70% on fuel costs,” Ramsés Montes Calzadilla, provincial strategy director Energy and Mines said in an interview with the news website Cubadebate.

Electric motorcycles are changing the cityscape of Cuba and creating challenges. Batteries tend to ignite, and relatively silence with inexperienced drivers causes traffic accidents.

According to the latest figures available from the fire department, there were 263 fires from motorcycles with gel or lithium batteries in the first half of 2020, a significant increase compared to 208 in 2019 overall.