Rwanda and Uganda are quite ahead of their East African neighbours in the global switch to electric cars, even as infrastructure shortcomings limit investments in the emerging sector.
In the past two months, Kampala and Kigali have unveiled electric vehicle assembly plants, with Kenya and Tanzania only making baby steps toward embracing the new technology.
Uganda’s state-owned Kiira Motors Corporation has so far built two battery-powered cars and a solar electric bus showing its ambition in the region.
The electric bus is called the Kayoola Electric Vehicle Series (EVS) and has been built using Kiira Motors home-grown green mobility technologies while partnering with Motor Co. Ltd, a Chinese Equipment Manufacturer.
The electric buses have a capacity of 90 passengers (49 sitting and 41 standing), compared to the diesel engine vehicles which have a capacity of 65 passengers. They can cover a distance of 300km under a single charge.
Last year Uganda committed nearly 6.4 million to put the first fully home-made car on the road. The amount is part of a planned $39 million spending over the planned period from 2018 to 2022.
In October this year, German automaker Volkswagen started assembling electric vehicles in Kigali with Siemens, the German power equipment firm planning to set up 15 charging stations in the Rwandan capital.
This comes after Ampersand, a Rwandan firm started selling electric bikes powered by batteries that can last for about 75km of riding.
According to the Global EV Outlook report 2019, East Africa’s uptake of electrical vehicles remains extremely low compared to global leaders.
The report launched by the International Energy Agency pointed out that lack of investment in charging infrastructure and absence of fiscal incentives such as subsidies and rebates on vehicle acquisition taxes and lower parking fees are to blame.
Plans are underway in Ethiopia for a local electric vehicle assembler, Tom Renewable Electric Bike Assembly & Sales to start production in the country.
In Tanzania, the Mount Kilimanjaro Safari Club became the first tour company to release a 100 per cent electric Safari cars in the region. While in Kenya, Finnish firm EkoRent introduced a fully electric taxi dubbed Nopia Ride last year.