Electric Vehicles: A Ugandan Experience

Plans for initial production, starting next July, of 5,000 vehicles a year, including buses.

There is a sector of urban mobility where there is a silent revolution. We are speaking of electric buses. The annual rate of increase of the vehicles has exceeded 100% since 2013, more than in any other sector of electric vehicles.

The country that is well ahead in this sector is China, with half a million electricity-powered buses.

The choice is dictated by the need to reduce air pollution and the presence of a strong bus industry, and, above all, of batteries. In Europe too, the urban fleets most probably must make the change in some cities such as Milan where the city council has decided to make all buses in circulation electricity-powered by the end of the decade.

In Africa, too, there are countries that want to attempt this. In Uganda, Kiira Motors, owned by the state, plans to start production next July, aiming at an initial rate of 5,000 vehicles a year, including buses. The government hopes that 90% of the parts for these vehicles can be made in Uganda, from the bodywork to bamboo floors and seats made from banana fibres. Only the lithium batteries will come from China.

“We want to show that we are able to produce innovative vehicles making maximum use of local materials,” said Elioda Tumwesigye, minister for science and innovation. The majority of the three million citizens of the capital Kampala travel on motorcycles or in twelve-seater minibuses run on diesel or petrol.

Around 85% of Ugandan vehicles today are second-hand, imported from other countries, more polluting and less efficient than similar models at present on the roads of Europe. It is hoped, therefore, to spread electric-powered mobility to reduce the extremely high levels of air pollution and to create jobs in this strategic sector.

Other countries are also trying to do so. Neighbouring Rwanda is planning to have all its taxis powered by electricity and Volkswagen is assembling electric cars in a factory in the capital Kigali. Kenya is due to commence production of electric tuc-tucs while Ethiopia has announced it will start assembling electric cars in collaboration with its Korean partners.

(G.S.)