Leoparda Electric, a São Paulo-based startup, wants to be Latin America’s gogoro. In other words, it is looking to create a network of battery exchange stations that will help spread electric two-wheelers in the region.
While LatAm is the second largest two-wheeler market after Southeast Asia, electrification in the region is growing slowly. That’s partly because of policies, or lack thereof. Although many LatAm countries have set some tough targets for zero-emissions sales or internal combustion engine phase-outs, insufficient financial incentives, weak regulatory mechanisms, lack of public awareness and inadequate charging infrastructure have prevented the region from adopting EVs in any form. , according to a report from the International Council on Clean Transportation.
Jack Sarvari, co-founder and CEO of Leopard Electric, told Technology Flow that he feels couriers are key to unlocking the adoption of electric two-wheelers in the region. Before co-founding Leopard with ex-Tesla Billy Blaustein, Sarvari worked for six years at Rappi, Latam’s version of DoorDash, where he led operations, production and fast delivery. Serviri said motorcycle use in Latin America is skewed commercially, with commuters choosing to use public transit or private cars.
“They do 100 kilometers a day, which means they spend a lot on gasoline, which means they save a lot by switching to electric,” Sarvari told Technology Flow. “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 build infrastructure first or put people on vehicles first? Gogoro realized this years ago and said, “Both,” it decided to build its own electric scooter with a swappable battery that would be sold to commuters, used for a scooter-sharing scheme, and built battery-swapping stations at the same time. .
While Leoparda’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 sitting scooter, unlimited battery swapping, maintenance and insurance. Leoparda is importing two-wheelers from four different Chinese OEMs, which means it will initially run on four different batteries, unlike Gogoro’s. (Swobbee, a Berlin-based competitor, is doing something similar in Europe with small micromobility vehicles.)
The total cost for couriers in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where Leoparda will first launch, is $200 per month. Couriers typically spend 50% of what they spend on vehicle financing, gas, insurance and other expenses, Sarvari said.
To make switching to electric not only cost-effective but also convenient, Leoparda will first open battery exchange locations in geographically concentrated zones where most couriers operate. Over time, the service will expand zone wise. But first, Leoparda needs to figure out how to get users to replace their own batteries.
When Leoparda launched in December, the startup rented a few small spaces to perform some basic battery charging operations — think some shelving with extension cords and an employee trading dead batteries for fresh ones. But as a company scales, it needs to consolidate operations. Here comes the recent rise of the leopard.
The company just closed an $8.5 million seed round — co-led by Monashi’s and Construct Capital — that it will use to start hardware development for the charging cabinet.
“Even in Latin America the cost of having a guy with a bunch of shelves in the back charging batteries in a space you’re paying rent for, yes, we could do five or 10 locations, but if we want to scale beyond that it quickly becomes impossible,” Sarvari said.
Over time and as the company scales, Leoparda will work to develop its own swappable battery, optimized for long life, which will best serve Leoparda’s business model by reducing costs.
“There’s an untapped potential in Latin America of all kinds of people who want to work on these kinds of projects, who want to work on something green,” Sarvari said. “By being the first, there is an exciting opportunity to capture talent from across the region.”