Electrifying transportation: Moving from petroleum towards a sustainable e-mobility sector

  • 12 Jun 2023
  • 5 Mins Read
  • 〜 by james njoroge

During the 60th Madaraka Day celebrations in Embu County on June 1, President William Ruto noted that as international petroleum prices continue to rise beyond reach, the cost of fuel locally is rising steeply.

The Head of State went ahead to say that transport, as a component of household budgets, is affecting the cost of living, and the government wants to liberate Kenyans from reliance on transport that depends on petroleum.

“For this reason, we are rolling out an electric vehicle public transport system which will bring down the cost of transport significantly,” President Ruto said.

Earlier in the year, the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) approved new electricity tariffs which took effect on April 1. As part of this tariff review, EPRA introduced a special tariff regime for the electric mobility sector. The new e-mobility tariff has been set at Ksh16 for energy consumption up to 15,000kWh during peak periods and Ksh8 per kWh during off-peak periods, also up to 15,000kWh.

The Ksh16 is lower than the general domestic tariff, which is Ksh20.97 per kWh for consumption above 100kWh, and the small commercial tariff, which has been set at Ksh20.18 per kWh for consumption above 100kWh. The e-mobility tariff is also fixed until 2025/2026.

Electric vehicles

Already, some investors have moved quickly to take advantage of the new e-mobility tariffs. A case in point is BasiGo, an e-mobility company that is bringing the future of clean, electric public transport to the country.

Last month, BasiGo launched a first-of-its-kind, high-power DC fast charging station for electric buses in Buruburu, Nairobi. The station has the capacity to charge six electric buses simultaneously but is projected to support 25 electric buses by year’s end. The charging station is the first to be connected to the country’s new e-mobility tariff. BasiGo offers electric buses, along with charging and maintenance services, for public service bus operators.

BasiGo Chief Executive Officer Jit Bhattacharya speaking at the launch of the charging station said every bus they deploy and charge replaces the consumption of 20,000 litres per year of imported diesel, with the consumption of 50 MWh of clean, renewable electricity produced in Kenya. 

“With the new e-mobility tariff, we are able to invest in infrastructure like this charging station and enable the rapid growth of the electric vehicle industry in Kenya,” he said. BasiGo now has three charging sites in operation in Embakasi, Kikuyu and Buruburu, with the capacity to charge over 20 electric buses.

Speaking at the event, Kenya Power Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer Joseph Siror said the country’s transport sector contributes 67 percent of all emissions in the energy sector and 12 percent of national emissions. The sector emissions are projected to rise to 17 percent in 2030. To combat this trend, the e-mobility sector ought to be supported to grow and take off in the country. “Being the biggest economy in the region, an innovation hub, and a clean energy global leader, Kenya stands an unparalleled chance to become the launch pad for the rest of the continent when it comes to the growth of the EV sector,” said Dr. Siror.

In the next financial year 2023/24, Kenya Power plans to spend Ksh10 billion ($73.4 million) to construct new substations and power lines in order to strengthen the electricity distribution network. The investment is in line with the company’s strategy to strengthen the network for improved quality and reliability of power supply to its customers.

As the demand for electric vehicles continues to grow, Kenya Power says it will continue to prioritise generation from renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro, wind, biomass and geothermal as guided by the Least Cost Power Development Plan.

Currently, the country has an installed capacity of 3,321MW against a peak demand of 2,132MW. During off-peak, the demand drops to about 1,100MW. This creates a good opportunity for high-capacity electric vehicle charging which utilises the available unused power.  

The President hinted that players in the boda boda sector are about to experience what he termed as inclusive transformation through the introduction of more efficient, affordable and clean vehicles. “With this intervention, owning and operating a boda boda will become affordable, secure and profitable. I am eager that this information reaches the seconder of my presidential nomination, Mr. Calvin Ochieng, who operates in Kilimani so that he can escalate his hustle to the next level.”

Boda bodas

President Ruto claimed that he had encountered several boda boda operators that have complained about the high instalments they have to make regularly to keep their motorcycles. “When I went round the country, they (boda boda operators) stepped forward and told me they are victims of an exploitative financing system,” he said.

Dr. Ruto noted that his administration was developing a mechanism that would allow citizens to get boda bodas without dealing with a ‘predatory system’.

Besides the new financing mechanism announced by the President, electricity will be used to power the motorcycles. This is a bold move considering that a large-scale electric motorcycle adoption demands the necessary infrastructure.  

This can be done at home or at a station. Also, riders can leverage the practice of battery swapping and get a charged one in place of a spent one. However, these need heavy financial commitments.

Of late, sets of sturdy, brightly branded battery-swapping stations have cropped up around Nairobi, allowing electric motorcyclists to exchange their low batteries for fully charged ones. It is a sign of an electric motorcycle revolution beginning to unfold in Nairobi where combustion-engine motorcycles are a cheaper and quicker way to get around than vehicles.

The battery swapping not only saves time but also saves buyers money as many sellers follow a model in which they retain ownership of the battery, the motorcycle’s most expensive part.

The motorcycle industry in Kenya is booming, buoyed by the ever-growing boda boda industry. Currently, there are over two million registered boda bodas in the country. This growth has attracted the attention of several firms which want to transition to electric transportation.

Similarly, a number of factors such as the country’s impressive renewable energy generation, are also playing a key role in attracting investments in the electric motorcycle industry. Renewables dominate the country’s energy generation mix, leading to a clean grid with over 90 percent of electricity generated from renewable energy sources.