Leopard Electric is bringing two-wheeler battery swapping to LatAm • TechCrunch

Leopard Electric, a startup based in Sao Paulo, wants to be Latin America’s go-to. In other words, it wants to build a network of battery swapping stations that will help spread the adoption of electric two-wheelers in the region.

Although LatAm is the second largest two-wheeler market after Southeast Asia, the development of electrification in the region has been slow. That’s partly because of policies, or the lack of them. Although many Latin countries have set some ambitious targets for zero-emission sales or internal combustion engine adoption, insufficient fiscal incentives, weak regulatory policies, 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 Clean Transportation Council.

Jack Sarvari, founder and CEO of Leopard Electric, told TechCrunch that he thinks messengers could be key to unlocking electric two-wheeler adoption in the region. Before co-founding Leoparda with ex-Tesla Billy Blaustein, Sarvary worked for six years at Rapi, the LatAm version of DoorDash, where he led operations, product and express delivery. Sarvari says motorcycle use in Latin America distorts businesses, with commuters choosing to use public transportation or private cars.

“They run about 100 kilometers a day, which means they use more gasoline, which means they save more 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 that. So if we build the infrastructure, we will make these huge savings available to them.

There is always a chicken and egg problem when it comes to electrification adoption. Do we put infrastructure first or do we put people in vehicles? Gogoro realized this years ago and while saying “both”, he chose to build his own electric scooter with a removable battery to sell to commuters and use a scooter sharing system and built battery exchange stations at the same time. .

While Leoparda’s core business is in battery swapping, the startup aims to do the same by putting together a subscription package that includes an electric motorcycle or recumbent scooter, unlimited battery swapping, maintenance and insurance. Leopard is importing two-wheelers from four different Chinese OEMs, which means it will run on four different batteries as opposed to the Gogoro battery for the first time. (Swobbee, a Berlin-based competitor, is doing the same in Europe with small micro-mobiles.)

All of this should cost exporters around $200 a month in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where Leopard is making its debut. Sarvary says this is about 50% of what couriers typically spend on vehicle financing, gas, insurance and other expenses.

To make switching to electric not only cost-effective but also convenient, Leoparda will first open its battery exchange locations in geographically focused zones where most couriers operate. Over time, the service will expand by zone. But first, Leopard needs to figure out how to enable users to swap their own batteries.

When Leoparda launches in December, the startup rents out a few small spaces to do some basic battery charging — think some racks with extension cords and an employee selling dead batteries for new ones. But when the scale of the company increases, it needs to consolidate operations. This is where Leopard’s latest addition comes in.

The company has just closed an $8.5 million seed round — in partnership with Monashees and Construct Capital — that will be used to start hardware development for the charging cabinet.

“The cost of having a human being with a lot of racks in the back and charging batteries, even in Latin America, like, yeah, we can do five or 10 places, but if we want to, we can do more. This will quickly become impossible,” said Sarvari.

Over time and as the company scales up, Leoparda wants to work on developing its own replacement battery that is optimized for longer life, reducing costs and better serving Leoparda’s business model.

“There’s an untapped potential in Latin America for all kinds of people who want to work on these kinds of projects that want to work on something green,” Sarvary said. “Being the first, there’s an exciting opportunity to capture all that talent in the region.”

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