Leoparda Electric, a startup based in São Paulo, wants to be the Gogoro of Latin America. In other words, it seeks to create a network of battery swapping stations that should help spread the adoption of electric two-wheelers in the region.
While LatAm is the second-largest two-wheeler market after Southeast Asia, electrification in the region has been slow to develop. This is partly due to policies, or lack thereof. While several Latin American countries have set rough targets for zero-emission sales or phasing out internal combustion engines, insufficient tax incentives, weak regulatory policies, lack of public awareness and infrastructure inadequate charging have prevented the region from adopting electric vehicles in any form. , according to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation.
Jack Sarvary, co-founder and CEO of Leoparda Electric, told TechCrunch he believes couriers could be the key to unlocking the adoption of electric two-wheelers in the region. Before founding Leoparda alongside ex-Tesla Billy Blaustein, Sarvary worked for six years at Rappi, the LatAm version of DoorDash, where he led operations, product and rapid delivery. Sarvary says that in Latin America, motorcycle use skews commerce, with commuters choosing to use public transport or personal cars.
“They’re doing about 100 miles a day, which means they’re spending a lot on gas, which means they have a lot to save by going electric,” Sarvary told TechCrunch. “Electricity is 10 times cheaper than gas. The problem is that there is no infrastructure to support this. So if we build the infrastructure, we allow them access to these huge potential savings.
When it comes to adopting electrification, there is always a chicken and egg problem. Do we put the infrastructure in place first or do we get people into the vehicles first? Gogoro realized years ago and said “both”, opting to build his own electric scooter with a swappable battery that he would sell to commuters, as well as use it for a scooter-sharing program , and to build the battery exchange stations in one go.
While Leoparda’s core business is battery swapping, the startup aims to do something similar by rolling out a subscription package that includes an electric motorcycle or sit-down scooter, unlimited battery swaps, l maintenance and insurance. Leoparda imports two-wheelers from four different Chinese OEMs, meaning it will initially run on four different batteries as opposed to Gogoro’s. (Swobbee, a Berlin competitor, is doing something similar in Europe with smaller micromobility vehicles.)
The whole thing is expected to cost couriers in São Paulo, Brazil, where Leoparda will first launch, around $200 a month. Sarvary says that’s 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 swap sites in geographically concentrated areas where most couriers operate. Over time, the service will expand area by area. But first, Leoparda needs to figure out how to allow users to swap 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 shelves with extension cords and an employee swapping dead batteries for new ones. But as the company evolves, it will need to consolidate its operations. This is where Leoparda’s recent surge comes in.
The company just closed an $8.5 million funding round — co-led by Monashees and Construct Capital — which it will use to start hardware development for a charging cabinet.
“The cost of having a human being with a bunch of shelves behind him charging batteries in a space where you pay rent, even in Latin America, like, yeah, we can do five or 10 locations but if we want to scale beyond that, it will quickly become unachievable,” Sarvary said.
Over time and as the business evolves, Leoparda would like to develop its own interchangeable 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. “By being the first there is an exciting opportunity to capture all this talent across the region.”