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Rwandans switching from petrol to electric motorcycles


Transport e-mobility (electro-mobility) may be a global multi billion business but here in Rwanda it’s a relatively new idea.

However following the introduction of a national e-mobility policy and a call from President Paul Kagame to speed up the process, manufacturers are becoming more enthusiastic about the potential.

Electric vehicle company ‘Ampersand’ has been in the e-mobility market for four years and is now helping Rwanda shift from gas driven motorbikes to electric motorcycles.

In a pilot programme targeting motorcycle taxi drivers it produced ten e-bikes for tests and is now selling them.

“We’ve been developing these vehicles for about four years now and making them so that they’re better and cheaper than the petrol motorcycles that are available on the road in Rwanda, that’s been our goal all along,” says Chief Executive of Ampersand, Josh Whale.

Ampersand is banking on government support to make these affordable and a viable business and has set itself a target to put out 3 million electric motorcycles in the East African region.

“The suppliers that we work with on the components for our vehicles are very large and we could potentially replace all the vehicles in Rwanda within a month so production capacity is not the issue, the issue is financing and working out the best mechanism to get motorcycles into drivers’ hands that’s good for the driver, and good for the country and good for us as a business,” says Whale.

Millions dependent on motorcycles

Over 3 million people in East Africa make their living as motorcycle taxi drivers.

James Musisi has been a motorcycle taxi driver in Kigali for nine years and switched to an e-motorcycle seven months ago.

He says he has been able to make more profit from the new electric motorcycle than a regular bike:

“Before using it I was using ordinary bike which was fuelless and per day I usually get 15,000 (Rwandan francs) or 16,000 per day. For this one I get 20,000 per day and above, 20,000 a day, 26,000.”

He also says using an electric bike as opposed to a fuel bike has improved his respiratory health.

The cost of buying an electric motorcycle ranges from 1,330 and 1,600 US Dollars.

Ampersand has received 2,500 requests from potential rental and sales clients, with 500 of them recorded in the two days after the president’s commitment to e-mobility financing and support.

Coletha Ruhamya is Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority and says:

“The government is working hard to promote green mobility. We have recently introduced, are working on, e-mobility policy to see what are the quick measures that can be implemented but currently we have promoted e-mobility in terms of motorcycles because motorcycle is a big transportation system in the country and we realise that they are the one that mostly contribute to air emission or air pollution in the transportation sector.”

2012 research conducted in Rwanda revealed at least 2,227 deaths that year resulted from air pollution and that poor quality of air has also increased numbers of respiratory diseases

Since then Rwanda has put an air quality monitoring system in place which helps collect current data and find ways in which the government can intervene.

From 2015 Rwanda passed bylaws in accordance with the 2011 East Africa Community (EAC) resolve to import only low sulphur fuel (cleaner fuel) to avoid sulphur oxides which cause respiratory diseases.

Commercial vehicles now undergo a gas emissions test twice a year while tests on personal vehicles will be conducted once a year.

The e-mobility policy is part of Rwanda’s commitment to address the issue of transport related pollution and move towards green mobility.

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