By Erick Massawe

The history of electric vehicles (EVs) stretches back surprisingly far.

In the early 1880’s, the first electrically powered bicycle was designed in France..

In 1888, countries like Germany started developing electric cars with innovative features which moved away from combustion engines.

The case was made for electric-powered vehicles for their convenience and comfort, in addition to the minimal effort required to start a car engine.

By the early 1900s, EVs had made a splash in the US market, but the challenges of slow charging batteries, high costs of maintenance then and a comparably weaker performance swung consumer preference to fossil fuel-powered vehicles; nevertheless, that did not dampen the resolve to develop EVs further.

The cause for e-mobility has grown in the last decade with technological advancements, the high fuel cost, climate change, and new policy guidelines enabling the slow but sure adoption of EVs.

Policymakers and corporate leaders around the world are making a case for more EVs on our roads owing to the growing concern about preserving the environment.

In the African context, we produce about 3 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, but we suffer disproportionately from climate change, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

This is among several reasons why we should fast-track the adoption of EVs.

First, e-mobility will contribute to minimizing fuel costs for road users.

Motorcycles, or boda bodas as they are widely known in Kenya, have become integral to the transport industry, serving as a significant source of employment and enhancing mobility.

The government reports that there are over 3 million boda boda riders in the country.

Transitioning these motorcycles to electric batteries could allow riders to complete a day’s work without multiple refueling stops, leading to substantial savings and increased earnings from more trips.

This potential increase in income could enable riders to expand their operations by investing in additional motorbikes, thereby boosting the economies they operate within.

The advent of e-mobility promises to drive innovation, particularly in manufacturing and infrastructure development.

According to the Energy Petroleum and Regulatory Authority (EPRA), there are 350 electric vehicles currently registered in Kenya.

With the recent introduction of the Draft National E-Mobility Policy, the number of electric vehicles on Kenyan roads is expected to rise.

Moreover, the adoption of EVs will allow us to operate sustainably.

The utilization of renewable energy in our transport sector will mitigate the rise of greenhouse gas emissions.

EVs, which rely on electric power rather than emitting CO2, also contribute to reducing our carbon footprint and effectively utilize surplus energy as they double as mobile energy storage units.

This shift not only preserves the environment but also aids in mitigating climate change.

The adoption and expansion of e-mobility are crucial for the growth of our transport sector by diversifying options of movement, especially in highly populated urban areas.

This diversification comes in the form of e-bikes, e-scooters, and electric vehicles.

The expansion of choices in the sector allows for equity and accessibility of transport, where people from different socioeconomic backgrounds can enjoy movement within our cities.

Lastly, for health reasons, we have to move towards e-mobility, as pollutant emissions can lead to grave health risks.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 3 million die annually due to poor air quality.

Electrifying transportation can curb the cases of respiratory and cardiovascular-related diseases caused by pollution.

For a successful shift to EVs, groundwork needs to be laid for us to achieve the intended target of 5 per cent of electric vehicles by next year in our country.

We need to set up infrastructure that will propel e-mobility, such as adequate charging stations that can service the growing number of EVs.

There needs to be a firm policy that guides regulations on e-mobility, with the aforementioned draft national policy being a good start.

Civic education is vital in the adoption of e-mobility.

Road users need to be enlightened on the benefits and dynamics of EVs.

Agencies in the energy and transport sector can play a role in this.

Finally, making EV affordable will make it more attractive to the masses.

At Watu Credit, we are looking to invest Sh1.3 billion by 2030 in the acquisition of electric-powered motorbikes.

We recognize the significance of the economic and social shift this will bring to the boda boda sector in terms of EVs.

We are working with the relevant regulators and industry players to make a contribution to enhancing e-mobility.

The Writer is the Country Manager at Watu Credit