Rwanda’s Transition to Electric Buses

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By Yizere Ange

Vehicular emissions are currently the leading cause of increasing air pollution in cities in Rwanda. In recognition of the well-documented impact of air pollution on public health, the Government of Rwanda (GoR) has introduced incentives for introducing electric vehicles across all vehicle types. While electric motorcycles, cars, bicycles, and even trucks have begun to populate Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, the high cost for larger investments in minibuses and buses has remained elusive. To ensure safe and environmentally sound transport for goods and people, buses are the final frontier in terms of reaching the targets for e-mobility set by the Government of Rwanda.

Transportation in Rwanda is mostly based on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles that have negative environmental impacts in the form of air pollution hazardous to health, emission of greenhouse gases that accelerate climate change, noise pollution, and others. Combined with other measures such as dedicated bus lanes, intelligent transport systems (ITS), and non-motorized transport (NMT), the large-scale adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is considered as an effective way in decarbonizing the transport sector. The City of Kigali in particular has made considerable efforts to enable green development and innovation while reducing dependency on fossil fuels in the transport sector. These initiatives also have a high potential for replication in Rwanda’s fast-growing secondary cities.

The Government of Rwanda has prioritized the transition to e-mobility to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and improve the wellbeing of its citizens, thus contributing to achieving national and global goals. Transport contributes 13% of Rwanda’s national GHG emissions. The Rwanda Updated NDC Report estimates $900 million USD is required for electric vehicles and associated charging infrastructure. In the case of buses, by shifting more people to public transport, cities can reduce road congestion, air pollution, and GHG emissions. The electrification of public transport further increases the potential for reducing the negative impact of transport on environment and public health outcomes.

In acknowledgement of these benefits, the Government of Rwanda has announced ambitious targets and a comprehensive set of incentives aimed at overcoming the barriers associated with transitioning to electric vehicles in Rwanda. These targets include a transition of 20% of the minibus/bus fleet to electric vehicles by 2030. Challenges that deter operators from adopting electric buses include the initial purchase cost, availability, and accessibility of adequate charging infrastructure, and lack of awareness about the operation of electric vehicles.

Among the incentives most relevant for bus operators, the Government of Rwanda has reduced the electric tariff for charging stations to the industrial tariff level. Electric vehicle parts, batteries, and charging equipment are also exempted from import and excise duties. Under non-fiscal incentives, bus operators and electric vehicle companies have also been allowed the use of rent-free, government-owned land for setting up charging stations. Companies manufacturing and assembling electric vehicles (battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and hybrid electric vehicles) in Rwanda are also given other incentives in the investment code, such as 15% Corporate Income Tax (CIT) and tax holiday (irrespective of the investment value).

While the cost for the purchase of e-buses is the main deterrent for bus operators, the savings from reduced operations and maintenance are substantial and are bolstered by the current incentives in place. Furthermore, while buses only comprise 0.74% of the total number of vehicles, they nevertheless disproportionately contribute 39.1% of GHG emissions in the transport sector in Rwanda.

The benefits of transitioning to electric buses are most evident when taking into consideration the total cost of ownership (TCO), which accounts for not only the initial costs for purchasing the assets, but also for the cost savings when compared to the business-as-usual practices of operating buses using diesel or petrol. In addition, the current incentives have reduced the cost parity between electric and diesel buses by a full three years, meaning the operators will have the same TCO for electric buses as diesel buses after only three years of operation (as opposed to six). 

TCO analysis for electric buses. Image courtesy of City of Kigali.

TCO analysis can therefore help fleet owners and operators to assess the economic viability of transitioning to electric buses and provide the rationale required to support the decision to adopt electric minibuses and full-size buses. By incorporating TCO into the analysis of fleet operations, bus operators can play a pivotal role in enabling and promoting smart and reliable public transport in the City of Kigali and Rwanda’s secondary cities.

About the author:

YIZERE ANGE is an intern at GGGI Rwanda where she will be working to support the implementation of sustainable mobility, research and report on e-mobility, research and analyze the potential of battery recycling and some other related responsibilities.

YIZERE ANGE is an intern at GGGI Rwanda where she will be working to support the implementation of sustainable mobility, research and report on e-mobility, research and analyze the potential of battery recycling, and some other related responsibilities.

In 2019, after her completion of a bachelor degree, she had a chance of doing a professional internship in the National Institute of Statistic of Rwanda (NISR), where she worked as Imihigo monitoring and evaluation engineer, and they were supposed to evaluate the completion and quality of any engineering infrastructures according to the district’s targets. 

In 2019 also, she had a good chance to go and study in China, Hunan province, Changsha city, at Central South University, School of Traffic and Transportation Engineering. During her study time, she gained a lot of required knowledge in transportation engineering and skills which she is proud of using in her country (Rwanda). 

She graduated with master’s degree in transportation engineering at central south university (China) in July 2021, and bachelor degree in Civil Engineering during academic year 2017/2018, at University of Rwanda/ college of science and technology.


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