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Nissan Leafs at the Launch of NopeaRide’s Thika Road Mall Charging Station, Thika Road, Nairobi. Pictures by Remeredzai Kuhudzai.

Air Quality

Importance of Accelerating EV Adoption To Reduce CO2 Emissions, Using Kenya As An Example

It’s clear to see that by increasing the penetration of electric vehicles every year, EV adoption will displace a significant amount of CO2 in Kenya. Kenya’s grid is already powered by a generation mix that is 93% renewable, thanks to significant contributions from geothermal, hydropower, wind, and some utility-scale solar plants. And since 39% of CO2 emissions in Kenya are from the transport sector, the transition to electromobility is the best route to reducing these emissions.

Nairobi is one of my favorite cities in the world. Driving around Nairobi and navigating Nairobi’s famous traffic jams gives you an indication of just how many cars there are in Nairobi during rush hour. A 2018 paper by Fiona Raje, et al., cites that 39% of CO2 emissions in Kenya are from the transport sector.

Kenya has announced it will soon start testing vehicle emissions of vehicles older the 5 years to curb air pollution. The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), says the inspections will be done after every two years. Suppliers of emission testing equipment are already looking into the Kenyan market.

Many families in Nairobi opt to own cars or even two or more cars per household out of necessity, as the public transport network is not as efficient and in most cases it is more convenient to get around in your own vehicle.

109,751 motor vehicles were imported into Kenya in 2019, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics-Economic Survey 2020. Over 90% of these imports were used cars and these are mostly coming from Japan. Kenya allows used vehicles to be imported into the country as long as they are not more than 8 years old from the date of manufacture.

The government has also been pushing to reduce the age of motor vehicle imports from eight to five years in an effort to cut emissions from these preowned cars. A study by Madara Ogot, et al., in 2017 on the “Characteristics of the in-service vehicle fleet in Kenya” found that 37% of cars on the road in Kenya are between 6 to 10 years old. 29% are in the 0 to 5 year old category and 18% are in the 11 to 15 year old range.

The remaining small fraction of the vehicle population was found to be older than 15 years. A 2015 study by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC, now called The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, or EPRA) on the “ Global Fuel Economy Initiative Study in Kenya (GFEI)” showed that that in the period leading up to 2015, consumer choices on engine capacities for vehicles imported during that time were as follows:

Kenya Vehicle Registrations By Engine Displacement

Engine Displacement (cc)
<1000 1001 – 1300 1301 – 1500 1501 – 2000 2001 – 2500 2501 – 3500 3501 and above
0.89% 6.79% 29.24% 34.88% 11.39% 12.44% 4.38%

Source – Energy Regulatory Commission, Report on Global Fuel Economy Initiative Study in Kenya (GFEI), April 2015.

For the purposes of this example we will assume that consumer preferences have remained the same. Taking a look at cars in the 6- to 15-year-old range that make up 55% of the current vehicle population, the 29% that are between 0 and 5 years old as well as the engine capacities listed in the table above with 64% being in the 1300 to 2000 cc range, we will use a figure of 181 g/km for CO2 emissions as listed in the ERC Report.

A survey by Madara Ogot, et al., found that the average annual distance covered by a vehicle was 22,671 km. A summary of popular commutes extracted from reports and discussions with Driveelectric Kenya are listed below:

Up to 40 km round trips

  • Nairobi to: Kiambu (17 km), Kikuyu (20km), Ongata Rongai (20.4 km), Githurai (15.3km), Runda (13.5km), typically on a normal working day, they drive a distance of up to 40 km a day if they follow a regular driving pattern. In a week that’s about 200 km, and for 20 working days in a month that is 800 km, or 10,600 km per year.

Up to 60 km round trips

  • A driver who lives up to 30 km from Nairobi CBD, e.g. Ruiru, (28 km), Karen (23 km), Kitengela (30 km), Kiserian (27 km), Ngong’ (28 km), Ruai (29 km) in a day, they drive about 60 km a day, 300 km a week, 1200 km a month, and 14,400 km a year.

Up to 80 km round trips

  • For a distance of up to 40 km from Nairobi, e.g. Limuru (37 km), Juja (33 km), in a day that’s 80 km, 400 km a week, 1600 km a month, 19,200 km a year.
Popular Round Trip Commutes Annual km Source
40 km 10,600 Driveelectric Kenya
60 km 14,400 Drivelectric Kenya
80 km 19,200 Driveelectric Kenya
Kenya average annual vehicle kilometres travelled 22,671 Madara Ogot et al
Averaging all of these 16,718
CO2 Emissions at 181 g/km 3.03 tonnes of CO2 per year per vehicle
Local CO2 emissions saved if 40% of annual vehicle imports were electric (43,900 vehicles) 133,017 tonnes of CO2 emissions saved annually

*This summary is just focusing on the emissions from driving. A further study looking into the full lifecyle from oil production to vehicle manufacturing to scrapping the vehicle vs EV manufacturing and emissions from charging using the national grid up till the end of life will follow.

Nissan Leafs at the launch of NopeaRide’s Thika Road Mall Charging Station, Thika Road, Nairobi. Image by Remeredzai Kuhudzai.

From the table above, it’s clear to see that by increasing the penetration of electric vehicles every year, EV adoption will displace a significant amount of CO2 in Kenya. Kenya’s grid is already powered by a generation mix that is 93% renewable, thanks to significant contributions from geothermal, hydropower, wind, and some utility-scale solar plants. And since 39% of CO2 emissions in Kenya are from the transport sector, the transition to electromobility is the best route to reducing these emissions.

Nissan Leaf at the launch of NopeaRide’s Thika Road Mall Charging Station, Thika Road, Nairobi. Image by Remeredzai Kuhudzai.

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.

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