Electric car company Zacua is out to bring more EVs to Mexico’s streets. But it also has another important mission: empowering women.
The assembly line at Zacua’s Puebla-based electric car factory represents a sea change for the country. Fewer than five percent of car sales in Mexico currently are electric, despite the growing demand around the world for fuel-efficient and plug-in electric vehicles.
There are reasons for this; lack of information on the benefits and costs, and a lacking infrastructure to support charging. The country has also been lax on passing legislation to incentivize electric car purchases.
But a shift to EVs is an urgent part of fighting the climate crisis as outlined in the IPCC’s recent report; it called for drastic emissions reductions in the next few years. Mexico City is the fifth most populated city in the world, home to more than 21 million people and more than 33 million vehicles, and the country is the tenth most populous in the world.
Zacua electric cars
Zacua, one of the country’s only dedicated EV manufacturers, is working fast to address the issue. It launched in 2017, rolling out two models shortly after, the MX2 and MX3. These aren’t Teslas or the new Mercedes-Benz EQS; starting prices for both sit at $599,900 MXN, about $30,000. The cars get about 100 miles per charge with speeds up to 53 miles per hour.
But they are a shift in the right direction, especially given the company’s most interesting selling point. It’s the company’s assembly line—the only one in the world that’s run entirely by women—that could help accelerate its goal of electrifying Mexico’s vehicles.
“Zacua is the first car globally, in more than 120 years of history, to be assembled by a 100 percent female team,” said Nazareth Black, Executive Director of Zacua. That’s getting the car company a lot of media attention that Black and the Zacua team hope translates to more EV sales in Mexico, even if it’s not their own.
Putting women on the line isn’t just a gimmick to boost brand visibility, though. Black has been outspoken about elevating women in the auto industry. She says women have a right to be part of the automotive sector, one of Mexico’s biggest industries.
Who buys electric cars?
Women are also driving the sales of EVs. Would buying a car made by women help keep that momentum going? It could, according to a 2018 study by researchers at the University of Sussex and Aarhus University in Denmark.
Professor Benjamin Sovacool, lead author of the study and Director of the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED) at the University of Sussex, said: “The decisions people make about the forms of transport they use or purchase can transcend purely economic self-interest and logic.
“They can be shaped by a diverse range of factors ranging from gender, education, occupation, age and family size,” and this could also include factors like wanting to support women-led businesses.
“The sooner that electric vehicle manufacturers and policymakers understand how these factors influence the decisions people make about their transport choices, the quicker people will switch to more sustainable modes of transport and hopefully long before legislation leaves them with no petrol or diesel alternative come 2040,” Sovacool said.
According to Sovacool, shifting from a petrol or diesel car to an electric vehicle “is not simply a choice between different vehicle models, it is a behavioural adjustment problem to adapt to the different restrictions of an electric vehicle such as it’s’ range and availability of charging.
“It is a similar shift as other health-related challenges such as quitting tobacco smoking or encouraging exercise, requiring older behavioural patterns to be broken and new behaviours established.”
Putting women at the forefront of production could help to spur this behavioral change. It certainly won’t hurt, says Black.
“Participating in the electromobility industry is a huge challenge,” Black said. “The greatest obstacle we faced was keeping the project alive. But we maintained our belief that this was a great contribution to the country and the environment. We will keep making information on electric mobility available to everyone so we can continue to break paradigms.”