Havana ( Associated Press) — Some come, some leave. The electric motorcycles they ride make little noise, but the music playing from the speakers and the constant commuting creates an atmosphere on the highway outside the Cuban capital, with dozens of young people doing stunts, hanging out with friends and gather to exchange experiences. their two wheeler.
In recent years, Cuba has been flooded with “Motrinas”, as these electric mobiles are called on the island. For many they are a fad, but for some they are also a solution to the transportation problems and fuel shortages that overwhelm the Caribbean nation.
“There’s an ‘outbreak’ of electric motorcycles, everybody likes them,” Ernesto Jose Salazar, 20, who works in a paint shop, told the Associated Press. “We got to meet up to 200 motorcycles, honking, listening to music,” said the proud owner of the “Aguila” brand.
Young people usually meet through social networks and spend a long time discussing the benefits of batteries or the place where they bought new tires. They introduce each other, they joke, they test the speed that each one reaches after “tuning” them or they pass on contacts to the best workshops.
They are also organized into clubs by affinity or brand. On the street where they met last weekend, some Unizuki, Bukati and Mishozuki were in the brightest colors and with flashy signs identifying their owners or giving vehicles affectionate names.
“Fuel is lost, you have to search for it and queue, it’s life being an electric motorcycle here right now,” said Alejandro Vasallo, 23, and owner of the Nippon-branded motorcycle “Bandolero”, which he specialized in. utterly proud. ,
Drivers and car owners faced a severe shortage of fuel this season, especially diesel, which will be used to power the electric generators with which the national energy system is complete, the peak of these months. Consumption collapsed this summer, as well as oil shortages caused by Venezuela’s difficulties – an ally and supplier of the island – and sanctions imposed by the United States on the Caribbean nation.
Since imports of these vehicles were authorized in the last decade—people whose engines require fuel or diesel, citizens cannot bring—Colonel Mario Ríos Labrada, head of the National Transit Directorate’s Vehicle Registry, said across the country. There are about 300,000 roaming around. A third of these “Motrinas” are in the capital, Rios said.
There are an estimated 500,000 cars by comparison.
They can cost between $2,000 and $5,000 and this year, in addition to those that are imported – usually of Chinese origin, bought by buyers in Panama who travel to bring them – officials told The “Minerva” brand will be marketed. , of national production, and assembled in an old bicycle manufacturing warehouse in Villa Clara.
The authorities ordered that these transports must have a driving license and registration of their drivers.
From the factory, these electric vehicles can reach 50 kilometers per hour, but many youngsters manipulate them for greater speed and reach over 200 kilometers in 400-meter trials.
The officials themselves expressed the benefits of these motorcycles in the midst of a bleak outlook for public transport, which barely reaches 50% of its buses in operation due to wear and tear, lack of resources for repairs and difficulty in supplying fuel. Is. the economic crisis.
The policy of promoting these vehicles from the government is clear.
“Electricity will always be cheaper than diesel fuel and gasoline, and in addition, electric motors are much more efficient than combustion engines, you can save up to 70% of fuel costs,” he said in an interview on the official Cubedbet website. Told. Ramses Montes Calzadilla, Strategy Director of the Ministry of Energy and Mines. “Something similar happens in maintenance costs, with electric vehicles having fewer components and being simpler mechanically.”
Be it fashion or necessity, electric motorcycles are changing the urban landscape in Cuba and posing some challenges: batteries catch fire and drivers’ inexperience coupled with their silence is causing traffic accidents.
The latest data available from the fire department indicates that there were 263 fires from motorcycles with gel or lithium batteries in the first half of 2020, a significant increase compared to 208 for the full year 2019.
In the same way, experts assure that everything starts with the proper operation of the equipment. “If an electric motorcycle is cared for and handled well, there’s no reason for it to be dangerous,” Vladimir Risk, a 30-year-old mechanic who has been repairing these vehicles for five years, told the Associated Press.