Photo of Felipe Cevallos

Energy & sustainability

Felipe Cevallos

Converting diesel buses to electric and manufacturing new plug-in buses to accelerate the transition to sustainable mobility.

Year Honored

Reborn Electric Motors

Latin America

Hails From

Transportation is one of the sectors that contributes most to the climate crisis: it is responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In Latin America and the Caribbean, this figure is even higher, as this sector is estimated to be behind 36% of emissions, with road transport accounting for four-fifths of this proportion. Road transport is also the main contributor to ozone concentrations in urban areas and ozone-induced damage to vegetation. Decarbonizing this industry is essential for the ecological transition to an economic system that does not endanger human life as we know it.

Faced with this environmental and health problem, Felipe Cevallos, an industrial engineer from the Catholic University of Chile, decided to put his knowledge at the service of reducing the emission of pollutants and greenhouse gases in the transportation industry. His answer was to electrify buses. Thus was born Reborn Electric Motors, a company that converts diesel buses into 100% electric buses and manufactures new electric buses that move without burning fossil fuel. "These two product lines help accelerate the migration towards electromobility in Latin America," says the young Chilean. Thanks to this development, Cevallos has been chosen by MIT Technology Review in Spanish as one of the 35 winners of Innovators under 35 Latin America 2023.

Mining accounts for 20% of Chile's Gross Domestic Product and its activity generates numerous environmental problems. For this reason, Cevallos has focused on buses adapted to the mining sector, prepared to operate with water, dust, acidic mud, and the slopes that these vehicles must endure. Reborn Electric Motors has supplied more than 100 buses to División El Teniente, the largest subway copper mine in the world. The young man adds, "We develop cutting-edge technology in Latin America that is competitive for the rest of the world and we make transportation more sustainable."

Reborn Electric Motors has two product lines: new buses and reused buses. It is the latter that gave this start-up its name: since electric vehicles are more expensive than diesel and gasoline ones, Cevallos decided to reuse buses at the end of their useful life and convert them into electric ones, thus reducing their initial cost. In addition to the reborn buses, there is a range of "zero-kilometer" buses, which, according to the engineer, "reaches more complex applications where electromobility does not currently do so."

With a plant capable of producing 200 buses a year in Chile, the young man wants to take his electric buses for mining to more countries. His plans include selling in Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, and the rest of Latin America. Subsequently, Cevallos aims to sell 1,000 buses a year, develop new technologies and decarbonize buses in other continents because it is not enough to act locally in the face of global problems such as the climate crisis and atmospheric pollution.