The electric vehicle craze hasn’t really caught up in the Kenyan market, but the state has been making strides in introducing the technology to some people and companies, albeit on a small scale.

There haven’t been any notable developments in the sector, and while other parts of the world are slowly transitioning to battery-powered vehicles, Kenya is far from achieving that goal. Although other leading nations such as the UK plan to phase out gas-powered vehicles by 2030, it is unfeasible that such a feat will be achieved here under the same timeframe.

Local electric vehicle developments in Kenya

Back in 2020, the Ministry of Energy had said that it could require real estate developers to incorporate electric car charging stations in their properties. The program was supposed to go live in 2020, and we have no concrete information if it was pursued, but your guess is as good as ours. Still, the Ministry had given a starting period for the project, so it is possible that it can be enforced before 2025 as per its report.

In 2021, former President Kenyatta made a trip to the UK, where he co-hosted the Global Education Summit alongside the Kingdom’s former PM Boris Johnson.

Other than supporting SMEs, the details of the meeting revealed that a notable share of the KES 20 billion gift given to Kenya would be used to drive many tech-based projects.

For instance, it was announced that InfraCo Africa would be investing KES 135 million in an electric taxi service named Nopea Ride. Nopea Ride is the first electric taxi company on the African continent and is growing its fleet in Nairobi. 

UPDATE: NopeaRide has closed shop in Kenya after it failed to break even.

In the same year, logistics firm Sendy revealed that it had started delivering products to its customers using electric vans after a partnership with leaser META Electric.

At the start of 2022, Opibus, which has since rebranded to ROAM, introduced an electric bus in Kenya, which, according to the company, was the first African-designed electric bus. This was its first primary step toward its vision of providing locally designed and developed electric buses. Its vision is to mass-produce such buses for the African market by the end of 2023. It had also announced that it would launch more than 10 buses before the end of 2022 to serve the peri-urban areas around Nairobi Metropolitan, paired with a business model that would enable operators to save from day one.

The firm added that along with the bus deployment, several charging points would be installed from Opibus’ already existing range of products.

These chargers would be a mix of AC (slow) and DC (fast) chargers, and using the fast charger, the electric bus is said to be fully charged within an hour enabling seamless operations. 

ROAM has since done more with the release of an electric bike named Roam Air that goes for KES 180K, which can also be bought on a loan basis thanks to its partnership with M-KOPA. It uses a dual-battery system. Its configuration allows a user to unplug a battery from the bike, and charge it while at home, just like you would do with a smartphone. You can also charge it at any other place. A user also has an option to swap the battery at authorized charging stations.  When fully charged, it can manage a range of 180 km.

A couple of weeks ago, the company launched an electric bus called Roam Rapid. The bus reportedly is best suited for Nairobi and its urban transport issues, but Roam says it plans to expand this availability to the rest of its markets, largely in Africa.

It has a capacity of 90 passengers, who can both sit and stand. It features a 384-kWh battery pack, the bus can do 360 km. For normal trips, operators have been assured to run all day without recharging.

Around the same period, another electric vehicle company based in Kenya BasiGo made a similar announcement after raising KES 500 million seed funding round. At that time, BasiGo said it had brought two 25-seat electric buses to Kenya, which were currently undergoing performance and reliability testing in Nairobi. The buses were also from BYD Automotive, the largest electric bus manufacturer in the world.

They can travel up to 250 km on a single charge and offer a more modern and comfortable passenger experience, including USB charging and WiFi connectivity for all passengers. 

BasiGo further revealed it had opened a charging and servicing depot for electric buses located adjacent to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Furthermore, the company added that it would offer electric buses to bus operators here in Kenya through the company’s unique “Pay-As-You-Drive” financing solution, which enables public bus owners to purchase an electric bus for the same upfront cost as an equivalent diesel bus.

Based on this model, BasiGo plans to deploy over 1,000 locally assembled electric buses in Nairobi over the next five years.

These developments have also been picked e-cab companies, including Little. The E-taxi company has since announced plans to partly go electric, but its case is a little different because it will focus on bikes. To note, this is the first time we have seen such a development because other organizations that are pursuing the vehicle electrification route have mostly ignored bikes. Little believes that the starting point should be bikes.

Little is piloting the service on one of the campuses of the University of Nairobi. The plan is to bring e-bikes to all major universities in the country. Nonetheless, for now, the bikes will be inside university campuses.

Also, the IoT software that controls e-bikes is developed by Little, or rather, Craft Silicon. The electric assets, for now, are being sourced from China, but the plan is to assemble them locally.

Techweez had also asked Little if Little is planning to electrify its e-cab business. CEO Kamal said that there is no such plan in the pipeline. ‘Electric cars are not something that we are looking at currently. But it can change based on the market dynamics,’ he said.

Not to be left out, eWAKA has also responded to the go-green campaign following the launch if an electric ‘boda-boda.’ It also has rideshare options including electric kick-start scooters and bicycles available on demand.

The company’s strategic development plans include establishing an African production facility to assemble components of the highest standards provided by international manufacturing partners. 

The Kenya Power approach

The electricity provider has also announced plans to phase out gas-powered vehicles from its fleet for electric replacements.

KP adds it has invested KES 40 million for the current FY to purchase three electric vehicles: two pick-ups and one four-wheel drive, but on a test basis. The funds will also go into the construction of charging stations in Nairobi for KP use and public demonstration.

This announcement was made during the launch of the aforementioned Roam motorcycles and the Swedish Embassy towards the end of September.

Kenya Power has also finished the pilot test of 13 electric bikes alongside the UNEP, which will be used by meter readers and revenue collection staff.

But with companies now assembling long-range e-motorbikes in the country and offering aftersales services, Kenya Power is excited about the future of e-mobility and ready to fully embrace electricity-powered motorbikes – said Kenya Power in a statement.

The current numbers

So far, there are more than 1000 electric vehicles on Kenya’s roads.

Being a power producer and distributor, Kenya Power surely has a role in accelerating the electric vehicle adoption process.

With an installed electricity capacity of 3077 MW and an off-peak load of 1100 MW, Kenya has sufficient power to support the entire e-mobility ecosystem.

Kenya Power has also invited bids for the constriction of e-mobility network infrastructure, ENIS, to pilot the charging stations. The infrastructure will also allow customers to pay via M-PESA or credit cards.

The Company has also established a liaison office, which acts as our one-stop shop to champion the Company’s e-mobility business. Through this Office. Kenya Power is working with other stakeholders to support the development of the e-mobility eco-system – says Kenya Power.

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Kenn Abuya is a friend of technology, with bias in enterprise and mobile tech. Share your thoughts, tips and hate mail at [email protected]