The global automotive future seems increasingly electric, and Kenya has no intention of lagging in this revolution.
KenGen (Kenya Electricity Generating Company) recently installed an electric vehicle (EV) charging station in Nairobi. With this significant move, the state agency has joined other players in steering the push for environmentally-friendly e-mobility.
The company made this revelation barely a month after Kenya released the first electric bus as the migration to e-mobility gathers pace. Clean-powered vehicles are a critical plank in the worldwide push to reverse the effects of greenhouse emissions, significantly cutting the reliance on petrol and diesel.
Kenyan EV companies are already gearing up, and Kenya Power acknowledges having sufficient electricity to power two million motorcycles and 50,000 buses during off-peak hours.
But is the idea of electric vehicles feasible in the country? What opportunities lie therein, and which obstacles limit their achievement? Read on to find out.
The Need for Sustainable Mobility in Kenya
Currently, the transport sector is responsible for 10 percent of Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions. The number is set to increase as the region’s respective countries continue to expand their vehicle parc.
Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda form approximately 40% of the continent’s population. These nations are experiencing the highest urbanization rates and rising incomes, making up 70% of the annual car sales.
Their current vehicle parc of 25 million vehicles is expected to hit the 58-million mark by 2040, mainly comprising second-hand ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. But this increasing parc also means more pollution rates, a critical concern.
The most effective way to go around this hurdle is to push for more sustainable modes of transport. E-mobility can address this issue while protecting the respective African nations from becoming dumping sites for hazardous ICE vehicles.
Fortunately, African nations are rising to the challenge and are already working on the common goal of transitioning to clean-energy transportation. According to UNEP, North African nations, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Mauritius, and Kenya are currently leading in EV adoption.
Kenya is home to over 50 startups specializing in two- and three-wheeler EVs. Furthermore, there are more than 20 e-mobility companies, and many more are coming up.
The Various Opportunities of E-Mobility
According to a recent McKinsey report, over 90 percent of motorists in Kenya and Nigeria are aware of EVs and would not mind owning one. This high awareness can be attributed to the numerous opportunities and benefits of e-mobility.
Sustainability is the main objective and benefit of this shift to electricity-powered transportation. These vehicles will significantly reduce carbon emissions, a great move in fighting for a cleaner environment.
While the cost of acquiring an EV may be prohibitive, these machines have relatively lower running costs and no congestion charges. Electric cars also don’t require engine lubrication and other maintenance tasks of combustion engines. Finally, the excellent driving experience offered by electric vehicles cannot go without mentioning.
Unfortunately, the transition to clean transportation comes with its hurdles.
Bumps on The Road for Electric Vehicles in Kenya
Like other nations in sub-Saharan Africa, electric cars remain scarce in most parts of Kenya. While South Africa is perceived as the continent’s largest e-mobility market, there are only a thousand EVs for the country’s over 12 million vehicles. Currently, most of the vehicles on our roads are second-hand cars.
The main challenges limiting the popularity of electric vehicles in Kenya and other African nations include:
Unfavorable Government Policies
Unlike European motor vehicle markets that must abide by the respective government directives to phase out ICE vehicles, African markets aren’t doing much. Out of the 54 countries, only Cape Verde has implemented this important legislative step with a plan to replace diesel and petrol vehicles with EVs by 2035.
While the Kenyan government has done a lot to improve infrastructure, there’s still a lot to be done, considering most parts of the country still lack reliable transportation. Besides bad roads, other infrastructural challenges limiting e-mobility adoption include weak electricity grids and inadequate e-chargers.
Less Than the Average Cost of Living
Considerable advancements in battery technology alongside significant investments in e-mobility companies have made EVs more affordable. However, the average wage of the average Kenyan is low; hence most citizens will find it relatively costly.
Lack of EVs Auto Assembly Facilities
Another limitation to importing electric vehicles is the lack of auto assembly factories specializing in electric vehicles. Setting up these production lines for electric cars in Kenya will significantly reduce shifting costs. With numerous companies worldwide producing EVs, the government should arrange with one of the enterprises to set up an auto assembly factory.
While Kenya Power promised sufficient power to charge e-mobility vehicles and motorcycles, the average cost of power is still a concern for many. Reducing the cost of electric vehicle charging will encourage EV ownership and adoption in the country.
Implementing All-Electric Public Transport
Kenya’s public transportation is mostly gasoline- or petrol-based; hence the average consumer may not be aware of the inception of EVs. Implementing e-mobility in the country’s public transport system will facilitate the creation of robust EV infrastructure and boost awareness among citizens. Overall, this move will reduce pollution and make transport a lot cheaper.
E-Mobility Companies Are Already Operational in Kenya
KenGen’s move to install a charging point in Nairobi isn’t in vain, as numerous EV companies in Kenya are defying the above challenges to join the list of Africa’s e-mobility pioneers. The following companies have already embarked on the EV journey:
- Opibus – This Nairobi-based Swedish startup specializes in converting ICE cars to electric vehicles. Some of their converted vehicles are used in Ol-Pajeta Conservancy and other game reserves.
- Nopea Ride – The Finnish startup began its pilot project in the country’s capital in 2018. Currently, it has four charging stations at the Jommo Kenyatta International Airport, Two Rivers Mall, The Hub Karen, and Thika Road Mall.
- Kiri Electric – The EV startup started its pilot project in 2021 and is now ready to take motorcycle orders.
- Drive Electric – This company offers e-mobility services such as electric vehicle leasing, fleet analysis, e-mobility consultancy, and charging station installation.
Many more companies are set to join KenGen, and the above EV startups in ensuring Kenya is at the forefront of Africa’s migration to e-mobility solutions.