Climate Change

An electric bus in the streets of Nairobi

| EVANS HABIL| Nation Media Group

How electric cars will force Kenya to add massive power to the grid

What you need to know:

  • Simulations by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) show that these e-models will consume 4,977.6 Gigawatt hours (GWh) a year in 2032 up from the current 9.79 GWh
  • EPRA sats there is a need for the energy sector to plan for a systematic increase in generation from renewable energy sources that will accommodate the exponential growth in demand for electricity

Kenyans’ uptake of electric vehicles is swiftly rising as more users seek to cushion themselves from the unbearable and ever-rising cost of petrol and diesel.

But with this comes the reality of ensuring a sufficient power supply that would keep the electric vehicles on the roads.

Models by the energy industry regulator have shown that Kenya needs to generate an extra 858.50 Megawatts (MW) of clean electricity annually by 2032 to meet the anticipated jump in demand in the wake of the fast-growing uptake of EVs.

Simulations by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) show that electric vehicles will consume 4,977.6 Gigawatt hours (GWh) a year in 2032 up from the current 9.79 GWh.

Kenya, like the rest of the world, is in the electric mobility race and targets to have five per cent of all new vehicles registered to be electric-powered, as part of global efforts to cut carbon emissions and stem adverse climatic change.

The energy regulator says of the 858.5 MW, geothermal power will account for 432.34 MW while wind and solar will chip in a combined 426.16 MW.

“There is a need for the energy sector to plan for a systematic increase in generation from renewable energy sources that will accommodate the exponential growth in demand for electricity brought by e-mobility and to improve the flexibility of the grid,” Epra says in a review of Kenya’s shift to EVs.

Uptake of EVs in Kenya has been on a steady rise since last year as Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators and those in the digital-taxi-hailing and boda boda segments drop fossil-fuel powered engines in favour of the electric units.

Kenya had 1,350 electric vehicles (two-wheelers and three-wheelers) as of February this year and the number is expected to rise by December.

Local electric mobility startup BasiGo and Swedish-Kenyan technology company Roam have since last year deployed at least 20 electric buses on city routes as the shift to clean mobility by PSVs gathers pace. The two firms say that orders for the units have been increasing.

Developed nations such as the United Kingdom target to have at least 70 per cent of all new cars sold by 2030 to be EVs while Japan targets all new units sold by the end of 2035 to be electric-powered. The two are the leading sources of second-hand cars imported into Kenya.

Epra’s simulations show that between next year and 2025, Kenya’s electricity demand by EVS will grow fastest from 129.03 GWh to 1,700.3 GWh, a 1,218 per cent jump. In the same period, the regulator says that Kenya needs to generate an additional 293.25 MW of clean energy.

Kenya is banking on the vast potential of untapped geothermal energy to power EVs as the country targets zero carbon emissions from its roads in the next decade.

Over 90 per cent of the national grid is currently green, highlighting Kenya’s ability to support clean mobility.

Geothermal power accounted for 45.3 per cent of the power mix as of last month, followed by hydro at 22.4 per cent, and 16.2 per cent for wind while solar held a share of 3.5 per cent. The dirty thermal power plants accounted for 7.8 per cent.

Geothermal has in recent years turned out to be the baseload for Kenya in the wake of waning hydro-generation attributed to poor rains.

Kenya’s push for clean mobility is gathering momentum in the wake of sky-high pump prices that have significantly increased the operational costs of transport service providers, businesses, and homes.

A litre of super petrol is currently at a record high of Sh211.64 while that of diesel is going for Sh200.99 in Nairobi.

The prices are set to remain on the rise in the coming months amid a rally in global prices of refined fuel and the government’s decision not to reinstate the stabilisation scheme that cushioned consumers against a spike in fuel prices from April 2021 to mid this year.

Simulations by Epra on the fuel costs between EVs and diesel automobiles show that electric buses are saving up to Sh8,600 per or 66 per cent daily compared to diesel-powered engines for a 260-kilometre trip.

They reveal that an electric powered bus uses an average of 115 kilowatt hours (kWh) for a 260-kilometre trip at a cost of Sh4,440, compared to Sh13,064 for 65 litres that a diesel-powered version uses for the same journey.

An electric car needs 36kWh for 240 kilometres at a cost of Sh1,418.51 compared to the Sh3,069.36 that a super petrol unit needs for 14.55 litres of fuel for the same journey in a day.

Electric boda bodas need Sh234.72 to buy 5kWh for a 190-kilometre journey, compared to Sh804.23 used on a super petrol-powered unit for the same journey, translating to cost savings of Sh569.

Operators especially those of PSVs are, however, wary of the electric units citing high prices of the units and uncertainty on the durability of the engines and maintenance costs.

An Ev bus costs at least Sh5.8 million inclusive of taxes. This is in addition to a subscription fee of Sh20 per kilometre for charging infrastructure and maintenance.

On the other hand, prices of electric motorcycles used by boda boda operators range between Sh180, 000 and Sh185,000 compared to the range of Sh90,000 and Sh150,000 for the conventional units.

A fully-charged battery powers an electric motorcycle for a range of 60 kilometres to 70 kilometres. Epra estimates that it takes an average of between one and a half hours to three hours to fully charge an electric motorcycle.

The EVs allow for battery swapping highlighting the flexibility of clean mobility, a process which is the equivalent of refueling at fuel stations.

Anticipated growth in electricity demand from EVs is likely to test the national grid with the energy regulator saying that Kenya Power should tap on the popularity to grow electricity consumption during the off-peak hours.

“70 percent of the EV charging can be done from 22:00 hours to 06:00 hours. This will help bridge the gap between off-peak load available generation capacity as well as raise the average demand,” Epra says.

Epra gazetted an electric mobility tariff where off-peak and peak charges are Sh16 and Sh8 respectively for charging up to 5,000-kilowatt hours (kWh). The tariffs took effect in April.

Kenya is also set to upgrade infrastructure to ensure a seamless shift to electric mobility, notably on the availability of public charging stations.

Guidelines published by Epra show that highways will have public charging stations located every 25 kilometres on both sides of the roads while in cities, the charging stations for heavy-duty units like lorries and buses shall be located at bus stops.