The low levels of motorization on the African continent present an incredible opportunity for another major leapfrog event similar to what happened with the mobile phone revolution. Most African countries have very low motorization rates of less than 50 vehicles per 1,000 people, which means the transport landscape at the moment is not inclusive and leaves a large chunk of the population underserved. In most African countries, there are no fuel emission standards and there are limited import restrictions in terms of the age of vehicles that can be imported into the country. This, plus a combination of low disposable incomes and limited vehicle financing options, has resulted in the importation of used vehicles dominating the vehicle market.
In Rwanda, the majority of imported vehicles are over a decade old, with the current vehicle fleet being dominated by cars over 15 years in age. This presents a significant opportunity for disruption within the automotive industry in Rwanda and across Africa. By implementing the appropriate incentives and policy framework, electric vehicles have the potential to drive this disruption, especially when paired with business models that are well-suited to the local market.
Rwanda is one of the countries in Africa that has led the way in introducing incentives to catalyze the adoption of electric vehicles. Here is a summary of these incentives:
- Electricity tariffs for charging stations to be capped at the industrial tariff. This means that charge point operators will be billed at close to USD 10 cents/kWh instead of close to 20 cents/kWh.
- Electric vehicles, spare parts, batteries, and charging station equipment will all be exempted from import and excise duties. All of these would also be treated as zero rated VAT products and will also be exempt from withholding tax.
- Rent-free land for charging stations on land owned by the government
- Provisions for EV charging stations in the building code and city planning rules
- Green license plate to allow preferential parking for EVs and free entry into any future congestion zones
- Access to dedicated bus lanes
- Provide preference to electric vehicle for government hired vehicles
- Regulate the importation of used vehicles by imposing an age limit
- Establish restricted zones where only green vehicles can have access
- Enforcement of existing emission standards to discourage the purchase of polluting vehicles
It’s already known that EVs incur much lower fuel and maintenance cost compared to ICE vehicles. But now, thanks to progressive policies, the price point of new EVs is reaching cost parity with the purchase price of old ICE vehicles. EVs are expected to take the market by storm in countries such as Rwanda when progressive policies and appropriate business models are combined.
Just like with the mobile phone revolution, and the solar panel industry, Chinese OEMs are set to lead the way in supplying affordable electric vehicles for developing markets. Following the new incentives, lower costs are now a desirable benefit of EVs, however, individual buyers and corporate fleet customers still lament range anxiety, availability of charging infrastructure, and lack of maintenance support as barriers to EV adoption.
The Rwandan venture KABISA sees an opportunity in these barriers and wants to disrupt the auto sector by providing a complete electric vehicle ecosystem. KABISA’s mission is to increase access to green, safe, and efficient transportation. To achieve this, KABISA is not just selling and leasing electric vehicles, but also setting up a public charging network, and opening an electric vehicle maintenance garage in Kigali.
Additional services include:
- Online car ordering & local test drives
- Accessible financing options (lease-to-own & P2P rental models)
- Insurance and other add-on features
- In-house maintenance, retail of spare parts, and a subscription roadside assistance service
- Business fleet management
- Build-out and operation of public charging network
- Installation and operation of home chargers and business chargers
The KABISA business model is made possible through the novel Rwandan EV policies. To show how much of an impact progressive polices can have on a market, the highlight for me as I was looking at KABISA’s offering was just how much its vehicles cost to purchase and how much money vehicle owners can save when switching to an EV. Have a look below:
The Blockbuster Wuling Hongguang Mini EV
The Wuling Mini EV will start at 11M RWF. That’s around $10,000 for a brand new small EV, which will be quite competitive in this market.
Both the 120 km (9.2 kWh) and the 170 km (13.8 kWh) range versions will be offered for commuting use in the Rwanda market. KABISA is already operating four Wuling Mini EVs in Kigali.
Compared to a RAV4, which is one or the more common vehicles imported as a used vehicle in Rwanda, a Wuling Mini EV driver stands to save 1.8M RWF per year on fuel alone. The RAV4 is used here just to give a picture of the typical running costs consumers in Rwanda face, although it is not in the same vehicle class as a Wuling Mini EV. However, some consumers may then opt for a mini EV once they get a picture of the typical running costs of the vehicle. Adding maintenance savings, the EV owner stands to save about 11M over five years, which is the same as the new EV purchase price (assuming a fuel cost of 1,609RWF/liter, RAV4 consumption 8.2 km/liter, distance driven 917 km/month, charging cost 249RWF/kWh, EV fuel economy 8.2 km/kWh).
The Wuling Mini EV has 4 seats, anti-lock brakes and airbags standard, a 20 kW motor (27 hp) & 85 NM of torque, and rear-wheel drive. The dimensions are: 3.06 m long, 1.52 m wide, and 1.66 m high.
Geely’s Geometry E!
The Geometry E is closer to the RAV4. The RAV4 is very popular with young professionals. The Geometry E will start from 22M RWF, which is around $20,000. A brand new Geely Geometry E vs an 8-year-old RAV4? The Geometry E is a no-brainer. Similar to the Wuling, expect an 85% cost savings per km driven when charging your EV versus filling up the ICE fuel tank.
Summary of the Geometry E:
- 320 km (33 kWh) or 400 km (39kWh) range
- 4 seats, 4-door
- Safety: anti-lock brakes and airbags are standard
- 60 kW (80 hp)
- Front-wheel drive
- Length: 4.0 m / Width: 1.8 m / Height: 1.6 m
BYD Song Plus
The BYD Song Plus starts at 44M RWF, which is about $40,000.
- 505 km (71.7 kWh) range
- 5 seats, 5-door
- Safety: anti-lock brakes, brake assist, traction control, body stabilization, 360° cameras, cruise control, airbags are standard
- 135kW (184 hp) & 280 NM of torque
- Front-wheel drive
- Up to 90 kW Fast Charge (DC)
- Length: 4.7 m / Width: 1.9 m / Height: 1.7 m
With this selection as well as other EVs on offer, KABISA is targeting key market segments such as young professionals, larger families, business fleets, and government fleets. To tackle the charging barrier, KABISA installs a home or business charger at the customer premises, allowing the EV customers to effortlessly charge their cars while parked at home or at work. This offer well aligns with the EV industry trend that over 80% of charging happens at home or work.
To give EV drivers peace of mind on their range constraints when driving in Kigali or up-country, KABISA is building out an public electric charging network. Three public charging stations are already set up and many more are planned to be installed over the next months. Expect to see chargers pop up at high-trafficked places such as shopping malls and roadside cafes. The first charger is powered by solar and can be used free of cost at the Norrsken Kigali Innovation Campus. The Campus also hosts KABISA’s main office, where EV test drives are being offered to interested parties.
Rwanda is not only a hotbed for electric car innovation. The electric motorbike industry in Rwanda has been growing rapidly as well. Innovative companies such as Ampersand and Rwanda Electric Motors are leading the way. Both companies have grown their Rwandan motorbike manufacturing operation over the past years. Now that Rwanda has introduced some awesome incentives to catalyze the growth of the country’s EV sector, the four-wheeler market is starting to get really exciting with the entry of players like KABISA.
Images courtesy of KABISA
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