Rwanda Places Focus on Increasing EVs on its Roads

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Rwanda Places Focus on Increasing EVs on its Roads

September, 2023
Shem Oirere

 

Rwanda, a tiny landlocked country in Eastern Africa with a total area of approximately 26,340 km, is almost the size of the State of Massachusetts. It has unveiled an ambitious plan to electrify its transportation sector as well as create adequate capacity for the parking and charging of electric vehicles (EVs).

 

This country of 13 million people is already grappling with the challenge of a constrained installed electricity generation capacity of about 225 MW, with only 53 percent of the country having access to electricity. Nevertheless, Rwanda is moving ahead with an e-mobility program that has come with a long-list of incentives to woo more vehicle owners into shifting from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to EVs.

 

“Government of Rwanda through the Cabinet has taken steps to create an enabling environment by proposing fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to unlock electric mobility transition,” says Dr. Jeanne D’Arc Mujawamariya, Rwanda’s Minister of Environment.

 

Some of the goodies the government is offering to potential EVs buyers include tax breaks for the vehicles, spare parts, batteries and charging station equipment that have all been exempted from import and excise duty and zero rated for value added tax.

 

Moreover, the government has offered rent-free land to any private investor willing to install charging stations. Local and international companies willing to manufacture or assemble EVs in Rwanda will enjoy a 15 percent corporate income tax rate and tax holiday.

 

Rwanda’s Ministry of Infrastructure (MINFRA) has identified the acquisition of two and three wheelers, the retrofitting of ICE motorcycles to become electric, as well as acquisition of more electric passenger buses as some of the low-lying fruits to achieve its e-mobility goals in the short term.

 

MINFRA has, meanwhile, set as Rwanda’s target increasing the electric buses to at least 20 percent of the country’s entire fleet by 2030.

 

Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Claver Gatete, says Rwanda is committed to “to promote Electric transport as a green mobility option which is also a viable solution to reduce air pollution in Kigali as well as in other urban areas.”

 

“The Government of Rwanda envisions to achieve seamless, green and sustainable transportation with a safe and environmentally sound transport for goods and people,” he says.

 

Currently, Rwanda has an estimated 265,000 privately registered vehicles, nearly all of them being internal combustion engine vehicles, on its roads. ICE vehicle ownership in Rwanda is increasing at the rate of 12 percent a year. The country’s transport sector contributes approximately 13 percent to Rwanda’s total greenhouse gas emissions. 

 

If Rwanda succeeds in having 20 percent of all its passenger buses being electric by 2030, the country hopes to avoid 72,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

 

Rwanda’s drive to increase EV ownership should be infused with policy to improve the country’s multi-modal transportation network since e-mobility may, after all, not be a 100 percent solution to achieving the country’s desired emission reduction goals. 

 

The MINFRA should, alongside pushing for more EVs on Rwandan roads, implement programs aimed at tackling urban transport challenges such as “congestion, poorly designed roads, inefficient land policy, inaccessibility to public transport, dominance of private rather than public vehicles, and sprawl,” according to the International Growth Centre (IGC), an economic research center based at the London School of Economics.

 

Moreover, IGC says Rwanda should induce more private sector companies to develop new charging infrastructure that can accommodate all types of EVs including battery EVs, hybrid EVs and plug hybrid EVs.

 

In fact, the Rwandan government admits existence of significant barriers to short or even medium-term shift from ICE vehicles to EVs despite an increasing interest among the Rwandese population.

 

A previous government report on e-mobility has identified the high initial purchase cost of EVs, lack of charging infrastructure and gaps in the knowledge about EVs in Rwanda as some of the barriers to be overcome if the country is to achieve its green transport sector goals.

 

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which is responsible for coordinating responses to environmental issues within the United Nations system, Rwanda requires at least US$900 million as total investment for new EV charging infrastructure for the country to be in line with the climate commitments that have been set out in its Nationally Determined Contribution. 

 

Some of the private sector international and local companies buying into Rwanda’s dream of EVs include Volkswagen, Victoria Autofast, Ampersand, SAFI Universal Link and Rwanda Electric Motorcycle Company (REM).

 

In 2019, Volkswagen announced a pilot project, in partnership with Siemens, to test the feasibility of electric mobility in Rwanda, the first such initiative in Africa then.

 

The pilot project, which became part of Volkswagen’s operations in Rwanda, entailed introduction of electric e-Golfs and one charging station in the capital, Kigali. 

 

Furthermore, Volkswagen signed a joint development agreement with Siemens to provide the charging infrastructure for the electric cars.

 

The pilot project will increase the Volkswagen brand EVs to 50 units in the short term as well as installing 15 charging stations within the capital, Kigali.

 

“Rwanda has the potential to leapfrog the internal combustion engines into electric cars,” said Thomas Schäfer, CEO of Volkswagen Group South Africa.

 

Although Rwanda is incentivizing more people to acquire EVs, the challenge of adequate space to park the vehicles, as well as plug them in to charge, still remains.

 

But one local startup, Kabisa Electric Ltd, appears to step in to offer a solution and revolutionize EV charging in Rwanda by offering an integrated solution that includes a charger with different charging power and functionality, and installation services alongside each EV sold with customers having an option of having the chargers mounted on a wall or on a bespoke pedestal. 

 

The company has taken advantage of the government incentive of rent-free land to unveil a project of building charging stations every 100 km in Rwanda.

 

According to Kabisa, the cost of fueling an EV is six times cheaper than for the ICE vehicle on petrol. The company says on its website that maintaining an EV costs “a fraction compared to the ICE vehicle because “there is no oils or liquid that need to be topped up and fewer vehicle parts that can wear out or break.”

 

The company argues servicing of EVs in Rwanda could be much cheaper than many think because “the only specialized part of the EV is the battery and it is unlikely you will need to get this replaced during the life of your car.”

 

Rwanda may be known as a land of a thousand hills because of its hilly and mountainous physical natural beauty, but achieving its EV dream would require more than the incentives already dished out – particularly expanding the country’s electricity generation and supply infrastructure.

 

Shem Oirere is Parking Today’s on the ground reporter in Africa. He can be reached at shem@shemoirere.com.

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Shem Oirere
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