More electric-powered buses making their way onto African roads

By Conrad Onyango, bird story agency

Hundreds of electric buses will hit African roads by the end of the year as several countries start to replace internal combustion engine public transport vehicles.

On the eve of 27th United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP27), Egypt, the host country, is to roll out 70 electric buses at a cost of $17 million.

The North African country’s ministry of state for military production and the ministry of local development signed a joint agreement for the acquisition of the buses christened, ‘Setibus’ in July.

Manufacturing Commercial Vehicles (MCV), an Egyptian manufacturer, is producing the vehicles in the country ahead of their official roll out in the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh, where COP27 will be hosted between 6 and 18 November.

“Work is in full swing for the climate conference, and there will be a fleet of electric and gas-powered buses and electric cars that will be operated during and after the climate conference,” EgyptToday quoted Egypt’s minister of local development, Mahmoud Shaarawy as saying.

Research firm, Modor Intelligence said African countries have been helped by the rising number of start-ups and foreign car makers in the nascent industry. “E-buses are becoming a commercially viable solution for public transport although it is still costlier to the diesel buses and in addition to that they have zero exhaust emissions,” it said in its Africa Electric Bus Market report.

After a four-month pilot, Kenyan startup, BasiGo has announced plans to introduce 20 electric buses by the close of 2022, increasing to 100 next year and reaching 1,000 units by 2025.

“They have been running 50,000 kilometers in total. We have proved the concept, the technology is able to work and survive in Kenya and Nairobi for now … Come 2025 our target to have 1,000 buses running in Kenya is possible. What we need is electric power and that is available,” said BasiGo head of business development, Samuel Kamunya, during the Kenya Power Expo 2022 in early July.

Kenya’s electricity producer, Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) in June began installing charging stations that will power the electric batteries of at least 50,000 buses and two million motorbikes.

“E-mobility is the fastest way for Kenya to make its energy transition like many other countries. It is also a key element in reducing pollution by promoting the use of vehicles that will reduce reliability on diesel and petrol,” said KenGen’s managing director, Rebecca Miano.

Kamunya said one of the biggest reasons why electric vehicles make sense in Kenya is because more than 90% of power generated in Kenya is renewable or from clean sources.

Currently Kenya has two active electric bus start-ups: BasiGo which locally assembles buses made by Chinese firm, Build Your Dreams (BYD) Auto and Swedish-Kenyan electric vehicles star-tup, Roam (formerly Opibus).

Roam was the first company to put its electric buses on the road, with a pilot program that started in January, with plans to roll out commercially mid-year.

“Following this, the platform will be tested at scale in commercial deployment of 10 buses during the second half of 2022,” said Roam project coordinator for public transport, Dennis Wakaba, in a statement.

In South Africa, Rheinmetall, a German-headquartered automotive and arms manufacturer, has begun phasing out 350 internal combustion vehicles with the introduction of electrically powered buses. Ebakinge-scooters and e-bikes also form part of the package to support green transport within and outside its plant.

A 12-month pilot study for two electric buses by Cape Town-based Golden Arrow Bus Services is also coming to a close, raising hopes for mass roll out by this South African mass transit bus service company. The electric buses were manufactured by BYD and the pilot launched in July 2021.

Rwanda has also cast its eye on a shift to electric buses, with plans to roll out incentives to local manufacturers of vehicle parts and charging equipment.

/ bird story agency