Early dividends from e-mobility

For Kenya, the transport sector is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter.

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Daily, consciously or unconsciously, people choose how to move. The electric mobility transition is about how people do so in a sustainable manner for the environment, the people, and the economy.

E-mobility serves services, systems, and equipment that support this movement through electric-powered technologies.

In the 19th century, Karl Benz invented the first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine. Since then, road transportation undisputedly spurred socioeconomic change across the entire globe. However, the sector has equally contributed to carbon emissions that have exacerbated climate change.

For Kenya, the transport sector is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter, accounting for 13 percent of total emissions. The rising pollution levels have also impacted health in urban populations, leading to a rise in respiratory-related deaths; and, for countries that are heavily reliant on oil import, a high cost of living.

E-mobility solutions present an opportunity to shift this narrative, more so for Kenya which has invested heavily in renewable sources of electricity that currently account for more than 90 percent of the total energy mix.

Kenya’s e-mobility ecosystem has gradually grown with the past year recording a commendable pace. There are about 40 e-mobility start-up companies in the country, that cut across the value chain from assembly and manufacturing of electric vehicles (EV) to services such as charging and battery management.

Innovative business strategies have enabled the EV pool to grow within the country to around 2,000 units.

BasiGo, an electric bus company, for instance, through their pay-as-you-drive model, has bridged the initial cost barrier that would have greatly deterred the matatu sector from transitioning.

For two- and three-wheelers, companies have adopted battery as a service that enables riders to reduce downtime by easily swapping batteries for those fully charged in less than five minutes at a cheaper cost.

E-mobility solutions have also incorporated the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable easy monitoring of usage on digital platforms for both operators and owners.

A just transition

E-mobility adoption in public transportation holds the greatest potential to make an impact. For Kenya, it can help shift the paradigm in the public transport sector to one of ‘transport as a service’ which in turn could help boost ridership and reduce reliance on private means of transport.

Key to accelerating a just transition are the government policies and regulations that enable a conducive environment.

Recently, an e-mobility task force was constituted and is working on a draft electric mobility policy to guide this transition.

Areas such as manufacturing and assembly, safety standards, infrastructure development, data safety and protection, training and capacity building of the workforce and business environment need careful and deliberate consideration tailored to the local context to spur growth.

Kenya Power has also been a very active actor in the e-mobility transition, with the vision of electrifying all of its fleet and providing a wide network of public charging infrastructure in the country.

The power distribution company has also taken up the challenge of providing an annual platform for all key stakeholders, both local and international, to convene and discuss Kenya’s e-mobility evolution and how to further accelerate adoption.

Best practice

Last month, they held the second e-mobility conference and expo where discussions on the need to boost local industry along the e-mobility value chain, building the capacity of the local workforce, opening more channels for financing the transition, boosting the number of charging infrastructure and scaling up on bridging public knowledge and information gap on e-mobility were held.

Such forums are critical to evaluating, learning, and sharing ideas on best practices and ways forward for a nascent industry that is capital-intensive.

As Kenya moves towards a greener future, the transition to e-mobility stands as a powerful symbol of the commitment to achieving a more sustainable future by not only addressing pressing environmental challenges but equally paving the way for a more sustainable economy.

As individuals, communities, and policymakers we can collectively drive this transformation.

The writer is a postgraduate student at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi

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