Kenya is one of the best places for electric vehicles. The grid is very green, with over 90% of the electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as hydropower, geothermal energy, wind and some solar energy in use scale. During the late night / off-peak period, demand drops from a peak of just over 2,000 MW to just over 1,000 MW. This provides a lot of space for the plant to sell more kWhs for electric cars that would still be parked all night. With the transport sector contributing close to 40% of Kenya’s CO2 emissions, accelerating the transition to electric mobility has become even more critical.
Kenya is also a net importer of petrol and diesel, and therefore spends a lot of foreign currency on fossil fuel imports. According to the latest economic study by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), sales to retail pumps and road transport had the highest share of total oil fuel sales in Kenya at 75.8% in 2021. Accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles, which will be powered by locally produced renewable energy will therefore go a long way in reducing the bill for fossil fuel imports. Kenya’s total import bill for oil products rose to 348.3 billion KSh ($ 2.97 billion) in 2021 from 209.1 billion KSh ($ 1.78 billion) in 2020. The jump was due to the recovery of the road transport and aviation sector, which drove demand for petroleum products following easing of COVID-19 containment measures. It is really time for Kenya to boost the adoption of electric vehicles and save on this much-needed foreign currency.
Nairobi-based Tom Morton, who has been active in projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions through his time at ClimateCare and as a director at Tropical Power Limited, a company specializing in providing solar and biomass energy solutions in Kenya and the wider East . African region, is one of the early users of electric cars in Kenya.
About a year ago, Tom imported a 62 kWh Nissan Leaf e + Tekna from the UK. He has been very active at EV shows in Kenya as part of his mission to help raise awareness and catalyze the introduction of electric vehicles in Kenya. His Nissan Leaf was on display at the recently held It’s Electric! Electric Mobility Expo at Buffalo Mall in Naivasha, Kenya.
There are now over 140 electric car models to choose from in the UK, and the range of models is constantly growing, with 50 more models to be launched this year. Tom chose the latest version of the Nissan Leaf as he thought it would be quite a reliable car as it is a car that has undergone several iterations since its launch in 2010. Nissan also has a significant presence in Kenya and although they do it. does not yet offer Leaf or any other electric car in Kenya, it can be much easier to get support from a brand that has a presence all over Kenya than from one that has no footprint at all.
Tom charges his magazine at home. He also has a 3kW photovoltaic system installed in the house. While Tom is driving around Nairobi, some of the questions he gets are:
- Where do you charge your car in Kenya?
- Is it expensive to charge the car?
To help answer these questions, Tom recently embarked on a business trip up in the country in his Nissan Leaf to show how comfortable it can be to drive electrically in Kenya. Starting at full charge, the first part of his business trip was a 90km trip from Nairobi to Naivasha. He had a 4-hour meeting in Naivasha, and during that time he managed to top up the charge by charging it slowly using a standard 3-pin socket at a gas station. He then continued driving non-stop from Naivasha to Kisumu, a distance of about 250 km. He then spent a few days in Kisumu, where he would recharge at his hotel, also using a standard 3-pin socket, as there are no public charging stations in Kisumu yet. When he finished his business meetings in Kisumu, he then drove from Kisumu to Nairobi without stopping!
His trip was 345.5 km and he arrived in Nairobi with 11% left and about 55 km range left after starting with full charge in Kisumu. He drove conservatively, but overtook where necessary, and drove an average of about 80-90 km / h on open roads. The “e-Pedal” function dampens acceleration and regenerates maximum energy back into the battery when the driver’s foot is away from the accelerator. This acts as a brake and has the effect of extending the range. In the current electricity process, the fuel cost is about 5 shillings per. km compared to about 13 shillings per. km for a similar petrol vehicle.
Tom might be the first person to ever drive an electric car non-stop from Kisumu to Nairobi. His tour shows that it is quite possible to drive a modern electric car with a decent size battery pack, even in the absence of an extensive charging network. Several companies are in the process of installing charging stations in and around Nairobi as well as on some stretches of the major highways. Let’s hope this will help more people make the decision to switch to electric mobility.
All photos courtesy of Tom Morton
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