NewsEast & Horn AfricaRwanda bets on electric motorbikes to reduce air pollution


Posted on Monday, 29 October 2018 16:52

Rwanda bets on electric motorbikes to reduce air pollution

By Reuters

Traffic passes a billboard advertising a casino in the capital Kigali, Rwanda Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Photo: Ben Curtis/AP/SIPATo fight against the high cost of fuel and pollution, a new initiative known as e-moto, is testing the use of electric motorbikes in Rwanda's capital Kigali.

Developed by Ampersand, a U.S - Rwandan electric vehicle company, the project aims to provide a low cost and environmentally friendly mode of transport, especially for motorcycle taxis riders.

Many Rwandans have increasingly been using motorbikes as taxis to avoid relatively expensive fares and traffic congestion.

In East Africa alone, more than 3 million people earn their livelihood as motorcycles drivers.

According the Ampersand founder and CEO Josh Whale, the e-moto will be more efficient and economical for the drivers.

"With a motorcycle that is more powerful, it's better at acceleration, it's better at climbing hills, has a top speed that's the same of better than the motorcycles here and it costs less to produce, we can sell it for less, but especially less cheaper to power. So drivers at the moment here in Kigali spend about 2,000 dollars a year on fuel, oil changes, they don't have to do any oil changes with us and the cost of energy with us is going to be something like 900 dollars a year so for a moto, that's a 1100 dollars a year savings, a huge amount of money," he said.

There are around 25,000 registered motorcycle taxi operators, according to Rwanda's taxi moto federation.

In Kigali, taxi motos are notorious for being involved in many road accidents. But Ampersand claims the electric motorcycle can help reduce the rate of accidents.

Launching in late 2019

"You know here in Kigali, more than 90% of the accidents, many people they say it's motos, so the break system is really strong than the existing one. This is smooth, when you ride it there is no noise. This motorcycles has no exhaust, we don't have any emissions," said Emmanuel Hakizimana, Ampersand Rwanda's country manager Emmanuel Hakizimana said.

E-motos are expected to cost between 1,300 dollars and 1,400 dollars, compared to 1,900 dollars for a petrol operated motorcycle.

Although the purchase price is still high, Ampersand says drivers will save more over time because electric bikes don't have air filters, oil, spark plugs or use fuel.

"I use at least 3,000 units worth of electricity, whereas I used to spend 5,000 Rwandan Francs (5 USD) on fuel. But 3,000 units of electricity only cost around 1,900 Rwandan Francs (2USD). So as you can see, petrol was more expensive and using electricity is more affordable," said one e-Moto rider.

"I think they will be popular here, I think people will like them, compared to the bikes that use petrol, because the petrol powered ones are noisier and emit a lot of more smoke which chokes you when you are riding at the back of the bike," added one Kigali resident, Steve Mutesi.

Some analysts say e-Motos can be dangerous as they are often quiet on the road, making it difficult for pedestrians to hear them.

Plans are in place to launch E-moto throughout Rwanda by late 2019.

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