Nairobi's quiet revolution: The transition to electric vehicles

An electric bus belonging to BasiGo parked next to Buruburu charging station


What you need to know:

  • Kenya’s transportation industry is moving towards electric vehicles and motorcycles to reduce carbon emissions.
  • BasiGo, an electric vehicle provider, says it has prevented the release of 217.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide in just two years.
  • Their electric buses have reduced fuel expenses and boosted environmental conservation.

When my father visits, I typically rely on Uber, but I'm considering switching to the electric bus for his next trip. Over the past two weeks, I've found the bus to be quiet, spacious and convenient. I'm not alone in my appreciation for this modern mode of transportation,” says Kevin Rabare, a daily commuter in Nairobi.

Kevin and Mercy Osingo prefer electric buses over conventional taxis due to their reliability and spaciousness. The eBus offers a comfortable and stress-free commute with added security features like CCTV and charging ports. It's the perfect choice for those seeking convenience and comfort in their daily commute.

Electric buses in Nairobi are a great way for drivers to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. For Francis Nderitu, a bus driver, switching to electric vehicles has come with advantages. He says he has seen a positive impact on his passengers and finances. Electric buses are also cost-effective, only requiring Sh5,000 worth of electric charge per day compared to between Sh12,000 and Sh14,000 worth of fuel per day for conventional buses.

Electric buses driving along Thika Road


Kenya’s transportation industry is moving towards electric vehicles and motorcycles to reduce carbon emissions. BasiGo, an electric vehicle provider, says it has prevented the release of 217.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide in just two years. Their electric buses have reduced fuel expenses and boosted environmental conservation.

BasiGo Product Marketing and Operations Manager Fredrick Mutitika says that the company has introduced an innovative financing structure for electric buses, offering a purchase price of Sh7.5 million and a mileage-dependent subscription fee of Sh40 per kilometre, covering the charging and maintenance services BasiGo provides.

The company's lease option reduces upfront costs, enhancing accessibility.

BasiGo faces a challenge in transitioning to electric buses due to the lack of charging stations. Fredrick notes that they plan to deploy more buses to different transport companies and take feedback from users to improve their service.

During his speech at the 60th Madaraka Day celebrations, President William Ruto made a commitment to provide low-cost financing for electric motorbikes to boda boda riders.

“We have to liberate Kenyans from reliance on transport that depends on petroleum. For this reason, we are rolling out an electric vehicle public transport system, which will significantly bring down the cost of transport,” said President Ruto.

 Mazi Mobility and Roam Motors are companies that sell electric motorcycles and offer charging solutions to Kenyan boda boda riders. These riders are taking the lead in transitioning to clean energy in the transport industry. Jesse Forrester, the founder of Mazi Mobility, started his business in 2021 by assembling 10 motorcycles in his living room. Today, he is collaborating with Technical and Vocational Education and Training institutes to assemble even more motorbikes.

“We now have 60 e-motorbikes that have been sold to riders who use them for ride-hailing and delivery services,” he said.

BasiGo Product Marketing and Operations Manager Fredrick Mutitika during the interview At BasiGo offices in Westlands , Nairobi on August 12.


He said the riders reported having saved 50 per cent of their operational costs and that the income from one motorbike is estimated to support five Kenyans in a family. According to the company’s analysis, a rider spends Sh600 on fuel daily. For the same distance, the electricity cost for e-motorcycles is about Sh300 for their battery-swapping service, which is currently their only charging option.

Mazi Mobility offers e-motorcycles with single or dual batteries. The single battery bike costs Sh130,000 and can travel up to 70km on a single charge. The dual battery bike costs Sh180,000 and can travel twice the distance. Roam Air bike costs Sh180,000 and comes with two batteries. Charging time is four hours per battery using a 600W charger that costs Sh168 at a charging station. If two batteries are used, the bikes can travel up to 140km.

Roam Motors have opened public charging stations for their electric motorcycles on Waiyaki Way, Lusaka Road and Ngong Road. Roam Park is now the biggest e-motorcycle assembly plant in East Africa with a 50,000 unit production capacity.

"With these three initial service stations, we believe that the Roam Hub will play a key role in providing sustainable transportation solutions for the people of Kenya. We are confident that this hassle-free charging experience will eventually turn the boda boda industry to electric,” said Roam Energy and Charging Product Manager Habib Lukaya in a statement released at the launch of the stations.

According to Jesse, electric bikes could become more popular among boda boda riders if the government provides promised incentives. “Simplifying the import process for e-mobility companies would help. Fuel-powered motorbikes are currently more affordable with prices as low as Sh90,000,” he noted.

“We need a smoother registration process for electric vehicles in the National Transport and Safety Authority and Kenya Revenue Authority. These are some of the issues that prevent us from scaling up,” added Jesse.

One of the major challenges he foresees is the mechanical waste that will increase when more vehicle users transition.

“Very few African countries have a used vehicle policy. Kenya has one policy where a car over eight years old since the date of its first registration cannot be imported into the country. This will be different for electric vehicles because the battery degrades over time. We need strict regulations on which second-hand electric vehicles should be let into the country and on the ones that are fit for Kenyan consumers.”

He warns that African countries are also at risk of becoming dumping grounds for fuel-powered cars as car companies halt production in other parts of the world. In 2021, Mercedes-Benz said it would sell only electric vehicles by 2030 but only in markets where conditions allow.

Jesse said Kenyan mechanics may need to learn to repair electric cars if the battery, which is the engine of any e-mobility vehicle, fails.

“For someone with a hybrid car, if their battery dies, they would need about Sh200,000. The driver with a fuel-powered car will need only Sh50,000. Kenyans will eventually ask these questions, and we need to think about them as we transition,” he said.

To combat air pollution and protect public health, switching to approved electric vehicles is crucial. This includes promoting the use of electric bodas and cars, which can significantly improve air quality in heavily polluted regions like Kenya. Health PS Mary Muthoni emphasises the importance of adopting these vehicles to enhance overall health and well-being.

Energy economist Thuo Njoroge Daniel suggests policies to encourage e-vehicle use and attract investors. “Transitioning to electric vehicles is cost-effective and charging stations can be installed without road restructuring. Kenya Power is working on this.”

“Kenya Power is working on checking how close electric vehicles’ charging stations can be placed alongside fuel pumps given that both make a volatile combination. Once we identify whether they can be put in the same space, installation will be quick and easy,” he explained.

Kenya aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32 per cent by 2030 by transitioning to electric vehicles. The government plans to set up 1,000 charging stations, and incentives are being provided to promote local manufacturing of e-mobility products.

Kenya approved a new tariff for electric vehicles on April 1, making them up to eight times cheaper than traditional cars. The Africa Climate Summit is promoting green energy and calling for global participation.