Electric Tricycles Sell Like Crazy for Dollars in Cuba

The motorcycles will begin to be sold in the coming days in the network of state stores. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 23 March 2021 — Those who visited the store that sells in hard currency (MLC) on Infanta Street, in Centro Habana, on Monday, could not believe it: for sale were the first electric vehicles for private sale in more than half a century. Two models of electric cargo tricycles were on display, at prices that were also astonishing: one, at $3,895, and another, with more capacity, at $6,900.

The vehicles will begin to be sold in the coming days in the network of state stores, although for weeks they have been marketed on government digital platforms.

“I believe that these tarecos don’t cost that anywhere in the world, they are bandits,” lamented a curious man who came to see the tricycles, which must be paid for in a single transaction and with a magnetic card in foreign currency.

The prices of the motorcycles are unattainable for most workers, much less in foreign currency. Among them, the farmers, a sector that cannot raise its head in an agricultural country, need this type of transport but do not have access to dollars.

“They are very expensive and there are no payment plans, so there is no one who can buy that,” complains Gerardo Cabrera, a farmer from the Guanes area, in Pinar del Río, who assures that “such a tricycle is essential for what we do on this farm, but between the costs of electricity, fertilizers, bureaucratic payments and other costs, it is impossible.”

However, despite the prices, these types of vehicle sell like crazy. This is confirmed by the vendors in the shop on Calle Infanta. “These don’t last at all here, people have their ways of finding out [they’re going on sale] and they line up. The tricycles that we have sold don’t last 24 hours on display and the problem is that the demand is high; this type of thing hasn’t been for sale for a long time,” he explains, and specifies that the fact that they are electric does not matter to the customer: the main attraction is that “it is a light vehicle.”

“They are prices for rich people, but at least there is that option. Before you used to die with old bills in your pockets and you couldn’t buy anything that rolled, but we don’t even have horses left because they were stolen to eat them,” says the farmer  Cabrera by telephone. “I would feel like Alain Delon on one of those tricycles, but I wake up and realize that I’m not even Panfilo.”

Tricycles are also widely used by private couriers to transport products, especially fruits, vegetables and meats, but so far most of those that perform this function are pedal powered. In less than a year these electric vehicles in private hands have begun to be seen circulating on the streets of Havana.

Outside the Luna restaurant in the town of Guanabo, curious people stop to look at a blue convertible tricycle belonging to a nearby self-employed person. Boastful of his vehicle, the man tells 14ymedio that his brother bought it from abroad through one of the most popular sales portals the sends products to the island.

A tricycle similar to the one owned by the self-employed man from Guanabo, without a dumping mechanism. (porlalivre.com)

“The good thing about having these types of tricycles in Cuban stores is that you save yourself from depending on an emigrated relative to do you the favor of buying it for you and that you do not have to wait the whole bureaucratic process for it to be delivered to you once its bought, which in my case took more than six weeks,” explains the man, who is self-employed.

“Those for sale now are more multipurpose, because they have a cab and you can put a good cover over the back, so they can be used for more things, but still very few arrive,” he explains. “People line up for weeks and it’s not easy to buy them.”

The $3,895 model is assembled on the island by the company Vehicles Eléctricos del Caribe (Vedca), which began operating last year in the Mariel Special Development Zone. It is one of the most promoted brands in recent months both on social networks and on other digital platforms.

According to the administrator of Vedca’s Facebook page, who calls himself Ray Motos [motorbikes], the vehicle has a “strong and resistant chassis, giving the vehicle a load capacity of one ton.”

The $ 6,900 model is from the Ming Hong brand, based in the Chinese city of Suining. Although they have not been as publicized by the Government as the Vedca, Cuba’s official press published a few months ago that three motorcycles of this brand were on tour in the Cienfuegos municipality of Abreu, donated, incidentally, by the United Nations Development Program to the 26th of July Farmers’ Cooperative.

On the island, the Ángel Villareal Bravo Industrial Company of Villa Clara, known as Ciclos Minerva, has produced this type of tricycle since 2019. It currently has another five models for heavy cargo and passengers in the testing phase and is studying the incorporation of two quadricycles, according to a story in the local press published this Monday. The new tricycles could be commercialized before the end of 2021.

Since the end of last year, electric tricycles have been incorporated into public transport in the capital, and according to official newspaper Granma, by 2021 the Government plans to manufacture new vehicles in the country with the same objective.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.