Leoparda Electric, a startup from São Paolo, aims to become the Gogoro of Latin America. In other words, it wants to build a network of battery exchange stations that should help spread the adoption of electric two-wheelers in the region.
Although LatAm is the second largest two-wheeler market after Southeast Asia, electrification in the region has been slow. This is partly due to policy, or the lack of it. While several Latin American countries have set some rough targets for zero-emissions sales or phasing out combustion engines, insufficient tax incentives, weak regulatory policies, lack of public awareness and inadequate charging infrastructure have kept the region from using electric vehicles in any form. to use, according to a report by the International Council for Clean Transport.
Jack Sarvary, co-founder and CEO of Leoparda Electric, told ukbusinessupdates.com that he thinks couriers could hold the key to unlocking the adoption of electric two-wheelers in the region. Before founding Leoparda alongside ex-Tesla Billy Blaustein, Sarvary spent six years at Rappi, LatAm’s version of DoorDash, where he led operations, product and prompt delivery. Sarvary says that in Latin America, motorcycle use is skewed, with commuters choosing to use public transportation or personal cars.
“They drive about 100 miles a day, which means they spend a lot on gas, which means they can save a lot by switching to electric,” Sarvary told ukbusinessupdates.com. “Electricity is 10 to 1 cheaper than gas. The problem is that there is no infrastructure to support that. So when we build the infrastructure, we enable them to access these huge potential savings.”
When it comes to adopting electrification, there is always a chicken-and-egg problem. Do we put infrastructure first or people on vehicles first? Gogoro realized this years ago and said “both”, opting to build his own electric scooter with a replaceable battery that he would sell to commuters, and also use for a scooter sharing scheme, and build the battery change stations in one go.
Although Leoparda’s core business is battery change, the startup aims to do something similar by putting together a subscription package that includes an electric motorcycle or scooter, unlimited battery changes, maintenance, and insurance. Leoparda imports the two-wheelers from four different Chinese OEMs, meaning it will initially run with four different batteries instead of Gogoro’s. (Swobbee, a Berlin competitor, is doing something similar in Europe with smaller micromobility vehicles.)
The whole thing should cost couriers in São Paolo, Brazil, where Leoparda is first launching, about $200 a month. Sarvary says that’s about 50% of what couriers typically spend on vehicle financing, gas, insurance and other expenses.
To make the switch to electric not only cost-effective but also convenient, Leoparda will first open its battery exchange locations in geographically concentrated areas where most carriers operate. Over time, the service expands zone by zone. But first, Leoparda needs to figure out how users can change their own batteries.
When Leoparda launches in December, the startup will rent out a few small spaces to house some basic battery-charging operations — think a few shelves of extension cords and an employee trading in dead batteries for new ones. But as the company scales, it will need to consolidate its operations. That’s where Leoparda’s recent raise comes in handy.
The company has just closed an $8.5 million seed round — co-led by Monashees and Construct Capital — which it will use to begin developing hardware for a charging cabinet.
“The cost of having a human with a bunch of shelves behind him charging batteries in a space where you pay rent, even in Latin America, like, yes, we can do five or ten locations, but if we want to scale further that will soon become unfeasible,” Sarvary said.
Over time and as the company grows, Leoparda plans to work on developing its own removable battery optimized for longer life, which would better serve Leoparda’s business model by reducing costs.
“There’s an untapped potential there of all kinds of people in Latin America who want to work on these kinds of projects, who want to work on something green,” Sarvary said. “Being the first is a great opportunity to capture all that talent across the region.”