Past, present and future: ABB’s story in Brazil

City of São Paulo at night

From the Sugar Loaf mountain cable car to the opening of a new factory in Sorocaba; a century of shared history points to bright future together

Think of Rio de Janeiro and the images of three iconic landmarks probably spring to mind. The first, and the most famous,  is the statute of Christ the Redeemer; the second is the Sugar Loaf mountain and the third is the Maracanã football stadium. What isn’t perhaps immediately obvious is ABB’s involvement with two of these three landmarks.

It all started with the supply of the electrical equipment for the first Sugar Loaf mountain cable car, known locally as “Bondinho”. Despite much initial scepticism about the project the first cable car successfully ascended the “Pão de Açúcar’ in 1912 without incident. Back then, it was made out wood, had space for 22 people and was one of only three in the world in operation (the other two were in Spain and Switzerland).

In 1954, ABB opened its first plant in Guarulhos, São Paulo to manufacture power transformers, medium and high-voltage products, power systems and substations. Further factories were opened in 1957 in Osasco (robotics, automation products and systems) and in 2000 in Blumenau (distribution transformers). In the aftermath of World War II, Brazil enjoyed comparatively strong economic growth.  This, coupled with a strong local presence, helped the company to participate in the country’s main infrastructure and industrialization projects, notably the Itaipu hydro plant and transmission line, which transports power over a distance of 800 km (from Itaipu to Ibiúna) and also supplies 20% of Brazil’s electrical power.

More recently, major power and automation projects include the installation one of the world’s longest transmission links, the 2,500km ‘Rio Madeira’ link, to transmit power from two new hydropower plants in the northwest down to the São Paulo area and the supply of automation and electrical equipment to the world’s largest iron ore mine, the Carajás Serra Sul S11D project, which is located in the Amazon region in northern Brazil.

Today’s opening of the plant in Sorocaba means that there are now 4,500 employees working in Brazil with another 1,000 jobs expected to be added by 2015. ABB has always had a strong presence in the Brazilian power sector but the Sorocaba plant will produce circuit breakers, switches and wiring accessory lines, which means you can expect to see an expansion into smart homes and intelligent building control systems.

Watch our video of the Sorocaba factory in action:

Going forward, all eyes will be on Brazil, not just as the host of the upcoming FIFA World Cup and the majestic Maracanã stadium but also for its potential in sustainable transport. Electric cars, buses, city-wide metro systems as well as an inter city high speed rail system could be the future transport of choice for many sports fans, commuters and tourists alike.

ABB has been part of Brazil’s development for a century  and given the country’s extraordinary dynamism, its cultural diversity, creativity and openness ABB looks forward to being part of its exciting story in the future.

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Gregory Hollings

Working every day to produce stories that highlight ABB's innovations!
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