SANTIAGO, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Thursday unveiled the first 100 Chinese-made electric buses to join the capital Santiago's mass transit system.
"We are going to achieve something that a short time ago seemed impossible: Santiago is very soon going to be -- after Chinese cities -- the city with the most electric buses in the world," Pinera said.
The move "clearly defines the route, the road map and the future we want for our public transportation system," he added.
During the official launch, Pinera was among the first to ride aboard the fully electric buses manufactured by BYD, a leading Chinese maker of electric vehicles.
BYD's electric buses took a month and a half to reach Chile's port of San Antonio from Shanghai, China. The 30-seat vehicle can accommodate up to 80 commuters, and are equipped with modern conveniences, such as USB ports.
More importantly, the buses are "practically nonpolluting and don't emit CO2 (carbon dioxide) or other types of greenhouse gases, because they don't have internal combustion engines," said Pinera.
Chinese-made electric buses have been running on the streets of Santiago for a few months as part of a pilot program, and are graded at 6.3 on a scale of 7, according to Chile's Metropolitan Public Transport Board.
The electric buses are part of the country's "Third Millennium Transport" project, which aims to make a qualitative leap in mass transit serving the capital and other cities to improve quality of life and sustainability.
With the new buses running into service on Dec. 15, a second batch of 100 buses are on their way and expected to join the fleet in January.
The units will make an estimated 240,000 weekly trips and benefit 12 districts, Pinera said.
The unveiling ceremony, which took place at the city's O'Higgins Park, was attended by Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Gloria Hutt, Economy, Promotion and Tourism Minister Jose Ramon Valente, and Energy Minister Susana Jimenez.
Also present at the ceremony was China's ambassador to Chile Xu Bu and representatives of BYD, Chilean transport company Metbus, and Italian electricity company ENEL.
BYD's country manager in Chile, Tamara Berrios, told Xinhua the company is a global leader in making and selling electric vehicles.
Contributing to the metropolitan transit fleet "is a big milestone," she said, adding "we hope next year we'll have an additional 200 buses joining the system."
"China is a great supplier and a great market, and in both aspects is of great importance for any counterpart, especially for a small market like ours," Hutt told Xinhua.
Chile has developed a good relationship with China, she noted.
"What we now want is to maintain it, because these 200 buses need an entire support system that the same manufacturers provides," she said.
The buses will be incorporated into Transantiago, the transportation system that operates in the Chilean capital.