With electric buses and bikes, Chile’s businesses turn new leaf

The Chilean capital will be home to the country’s first “Smart City” – a business park run by electric transport and renewable energies. 

Lights and heating that can be turned on and off by smartphones, electric “fuel pumps” and free WI-FI – it’s all part of Chile’s first “Smart City,” which began construction this week. But “Smartcity Santiago” will be about much more than just showing off high-tech gadgetry.
“The idea of this living laboratory called “Smartcity” is to bring technology that is available in the world to everyday people and thereby make them tangible,” deputy manager of Chilean energy company and major partners in the initiative, Chilectra, Claudio Inzunza, told La Tercera. “The idea is to effectively demonstrate that these technologies are not so far away and that using them can have direct benefits on people’s wallets and quality of life.”
Expected to be fully operational in early 2013, the initiative will put the latest generation technologies in renewable energy and lighting on display in the commune of Huechuraba, nestled in the foothills of the Andes.
It will join the Italian cities of Genoa and Bari, Barcelona and Malaga in Spain and Brazil’s Búzios as one a handful of “Smart City” experiments around the world.
Perhaps the business park’s most ambitious project will be an electric bus system – part of a pilot program by Alsacia, the company that owns a majority stake in Santiago’s bus network, Transantiago. Alsacia recently bought five K9 electric buses from ByD, and one of these will begin operating in Smartcity Santiago in December this year.
Another important project will be the installation in Avenida El Parque of 70 LED lights that are regulated automatically depending the hour of the day, as well as similar lighting systems in the green areas and footpaths of the area.
Meanwhile, Hotel Mercure, which is located in the center of the business park, will run electric cars as a “minibus service” for its clients, and three electric recharge stations will be constructed throughout the business park. The hotel is currently building solar panels to meet its energy requirements for water heating – cutting down on 30 percent of its energy consumption.
If the idea of these projects is to have a spillover effect into the rest of Santiago, it seems to be working. The business world is already heading in that direction on one of the biggest environmental trends sweeping the capital: bicycles.
The city’s financial district, known as Sanhattan, is projected to have 215 new bicycle parking spaces in 2013, adding to around 980 spaces that are currently there, to meet to the rising demand.
“Every day there are more executives that are pedalling to their offices, because they want to avoid the traffic or take part in a form of transport that does not impact the environment,” Robert Dagach, director of management services at CBRE, which manages much of the construction in the area, told La Tercera.
“The tendency emerged in the middle of the last decade, but has really shot off in the last few years,” said Dagach.