Kenya Power plans electric car charging stations in malls, highways


Kenya Power employees repair a transformer in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya Power #ticker:KPLC on Friday revealed plans for a larger stake of the electric car market through building countrywide charging points and push for further lowering of import taxes for non-fuel driven cars.

The electricity distributor said it would build a network of public electric vehicle charging points, targeting one of the hurdles for use of electric cars in Kenya.

It is also in talks with the State to cut taxes on electric cars and equipment for building charging points to meet the State target of having at least five percent of registered cars being non-petrol.

The utility is looking at the electricity charging points as new revenue streams in its race to diversify from selling power to homes and businesses.

“We are also planning to set up charging facilities across the country, and will make use of our existing workshops to provide after-sale services such as mechanical support,” Kenya Power acting CEO Rosemary Oduor told shareholders at the firm’s AGM.

"As Kenya’s only electricity off-taker, and with our goal being to become the energy solutions provider of choice, the opportunity presented by electric motorisation is substantive enough to be a dial-mover for the business."

The big worry for most people thinking about buying an electric car is how to charge the vehicles.

Kenya Power is expected to set the electric car charging points along major highways, parking lots and malls with its workshops being hubs for after-sale services.

It joins Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) #ticker:KEGN, which also recently announced it is investing in an electric car charging system.

Kenya has joined the global push to promote the use of electric vehicles and reduce reliance on petrol and diesel. Fuel products are the country’s biggest import item.

Analysts acknowledge the high price of electric cars would not appeal to most African consumers but said scaling up production and favourable government policy could help bring prices down. "We are working closely with the Government to enact laws that will subsidise the cost of these vehicles and the attendant infrastructure such as storage and charging points," said Ms Oduor.

To help encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, Kenya reduced excise duty on the cars from 20 percent to 10 percent.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) has also adopted electric vehicle standards.

By 2025, McKinsey estimates there will be more than 350 new electric vehicle models. This will pose unprecedented competition to established players like Tesla. Virtually every traditional carmaker across the globe is planning to launch electric vehicles. Start-ups, too, are getting in on the action.

In 2019, Reuters estimated that around 250 start-ups involved in the space had attracted over $20 billion (about Sh2 trillion) in venture capital.

In Kenya, scaling up the project will see both Kenya Power and KenGen generate revenue from vehicle owners who will require to charge their vehicles but this is heavily dependent on the technology picking up locally.

The use of electric vehicles has been gaining momentum in Western countries such as the Netherlands, Norway, Germany and the US as the world turns attention to cutting down on carbon emissions.

However, the high price, insufficient charging infrastructure and energy-storing batteries have been cited as the main challenges for the adoption and growth of the electric vehicle industry in African countries such as Kenya. The average price of an electric car is Sh6 million, which compares to a second-hand SUV imported into Kenya.

Imported used cars from Japan or the Middle East have offered an affordable route to vehicle ownership in Kenya and dominated the market for decades.

Nopia Ride, a taxi-hailing service that only uses electric cars, is scaling up operations in Kenya. The firm has installed charging stations in three locations, including the Two Rivers Mall, the Hub Karen and Thika Road Mall.

An electric vehicle runs on the power stored in batteries. The batteries take about an hour to fully charge and can drive for up to 250 kilometres.

Kenya Power in March partnered with Unep in a pilot launch of electric bikes project in Kenya. Under the pilot, the electricity distributor has received 25 e-bikes for its meter readers that will be used to test the usage of the motorcycle in Kenya.

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