Electric mobility, also known as e-mobility, refers to the use of electricity to power transport locomotives as an alternative to fossil fuels. The National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (2020) envisions that 5 per cent of all registered vehicles in Kenya will be electric powered by 2030. Currently, the number of registered electric vehicles (EVs) is low, accounting for less than one per cent (1,350 vehicles) of the total registered vehicles in Kenya (4.4 million vehicles). Additionally, data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and the National Transport and Safety Authority reveals a considerable gap between the expected number of electric vehicles and the actual number of newly registered vehicles in 2020 (Figure 1). In each category of vehicles indicated, the projected number of electric vehicles is significantly lower compared to the number of conventional fossil-fuel vehicles registered during the year.
Figure 1: Registered and expected number of electric vehicles in 2020
Source of data: KNBS (2022), Economic Survey and NTSA (2020)
Data for the National Climate Change Action Plan 2018-2022 revealed that the contribution of fossil fuel vehicles to the transport sector accounted for about 13 per cent of the country’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2015, a figure that is projected to rise to 17 per cent by 2030 due to steady sector growth. Estimates from the State Department for Transport indicate that domestic transport sector emissions have surged from 7.74 MtCO2e in 2009 to reach 12.34 MtCO2e as of 2019, translating to an increase of 59.4 per cent. Notably, road transport has consistently been the major contributor to these emissions, with 12.09 MtCO2e emitted in 2019 out of the total 12.43 MtCO2e emissions in the transport sector.
E-mobility has the potential to address the pressing environmental challenges in the transport sector. To encourage the uptake of e-vehicles, the government enacted the Finance Act of 2019, which lowered excise duty on electric-powered vehicles to 10 per cent compared to the 20-35 per cent duty imposed on fossil-fuel-powered vehicles. In addition, there is an ongoing revision of the Integrated National Transport Policy (2009) to incorporate provisions for electric vehicles (EVs) and the necessary infrastructure to support e-mobility. Moreover, the Finance Bill 2023 proposed that purchase of electric vehicles be zero-rated.
Challenges in the Uptake of e-Mobility
The low adoption rate of electric vehicles (EVs) can be attributed to the following factors:
The prevalence of fossil-fuel vehicles far outweighs that of electric vehicles (EVs) in Kenya. Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) indicate that EVs accounted for 0.19 per cent of all vehicles in 2020. Three-wheelers had a slightly higher share at 1.78 per cent, while motorcycles and other motor vehicles were at 0.13 per cent and 0.14 per cent, respectively. This low prevalence can be attributed to a significant knowledge gap among the public regarding the existence and benefits of EVs, and the government’s commitment to carbon emission reduction. The e-mobility Market Survey Report 2021 by the Association for Electric Mobility and Development in Africa highlights the relatively low consumer awareness of e-mobility products and services. Moreover, the Kenyan public remains largely unaware of the operating costs of EVs compared to traditional fossil fuel vehicles.
Another significant factor impeding the widespread adoption of e-mobility is the high cost of electricity. Although Kenya has a large electrical reserve of 1017.67MW that could be used to expand the adoption of e-mobility, from an installed capacity of 3,074.34 MW against a demand of only 2,056.67MW, a 2018 report by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers noted that high cost of electricity is a pervasive challenge that affects all sectors of the economy. These costs, which have since gone higher, make the transition to e-mobility unattractive for consumers.
Additionally, the insufficient infrastructure is also a significant hurdle in the adoption of e-mobility, data from Electromaps, a company that maps charging stations worldwide using Google Maps, indicates that there are only six public charging stations in Nairobi and one in Mombasa. The uncertainty associated with owning an electric vehicle and the frustration of spending long hours in charging queues act as deterrents to their uptake. The current eight charging stations in Kenya are insufficient to cater to the needs of electric vehicle users. Further, the E-mobility Conference Report 2023 shows that the charging time for 2 and 3 wheelers averages 4 hours for a travel distance of 100km, while 4+ wheelers require an average charging time of 5 hours for a travel distance of 300km.
Lastly, the high cost of purchasing an EV compared to a fossil-fuel vehicle impedes the acceleration of EV adoption. The 2021 e-mobility study on the importation and taxation of EVs conducted by the State Department for Transport indicated that owning an electric vehicle costs twice as much as owning a fossil-fuel-powered vehicle. Moreover, the limited number of local manufacturers further contributes to the low number of e-vehicles available. The 2021 AEMDA market survey report highlights the existence of only seven (7) local assemblers of e-vehicles in Kenya. Among these, five companies focus on producing electric two-wheelers, while the remaining two specialize in 4+wheelers. The upfront cost of purchasing an EV is often too steep for the average consumer with limited access to financing options, which significantly impedes uptake
Conclusion and Recommendations
E-mobility is a crucial solution to the challenge of growing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and over-dependence on imported petroleum products. The government’s commitment to e-mobility, as demonstrated by its prioritization under the National Climate Change Action Plan and its goal of having 5 per cent of all newly registered vehicles be EVs by 2025, is a positive step forward. It is imperative to devise effective strategies and policies to overcome the barriers identified and accelerate the transition to e-mobility.
To address the low prevalence of e-vehicles, it is important to engage county governments in electric vehicle awareness campaigns. This is likely to change consumer perspectives on e-mobility and accelerate the adoption of e-vehicles in all parts of the country.
The challenge of the high cost of electricity can be effectively tackled by collaborating with energy companies to harness renewable energy sources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and make electricity more affordable. Moreover, establishing regulations promoting competitive pricing can also help mitigate the effects of inflated electricity costs.
To overcome the hurdle of limited charging infrastructure, it is necessary to fast-track the finalization and implementation of the e-mobility draft, which is currently under review. This draft encompasses measures to support the development of charging infrastructure, encourage local manufacturing, and provide tax incentives. Further, the government and private sector can consider investing in battery-swapping stations to reduce waiting times for drivers. This technology enables electric vehicles to swap a depleted battery pack for a fully charged one as a substitute for connecting the vehicle to a charging station.
To address the local manufacturing gap and the high upfront cost, the government could provide local manufacturers with tax breaks and subsidies aimed at encouraging the production of electric vehicles. In addition, research, and development grants for the development of e-mobility components, such as batteries and motors, will make them cheaper and more attractive.
By Wilkista Lore and Geoffrey Baragu, KIPPRA Young Professionals