Rwanda has everything you desire to see as a tourist. From wildlife activities to eco-friendly environments, Rwanda offers you a slice of paradise in Africa. Today, the country is gradually going electric and dumping hydrocarbons (fuel). For instance, a company is transforming locally made motorbikes. The switch to electrically powered motorbikes is an ambitious dream Ampersand hopes to accomplish in the next five years.
The country is not stopping in offering the world a run for its technological initiatives. In this part of the world, motorbikes make up more than half of the vehicles being used. In Kigali for instance, there are over 25000 motorbike taxis operating. It is estimated that some drive up to 10 hours a day and cover hundreds of kilometers daily.
A recent study in Rwanda shows that the money spent on petrol in a year exceeds the cost of a new motorbike. There’s also a lot of pollution from the carbon dioxide released by these fuel-powered bikes because their simple engines lack the costly emissions reduction tech found in modern cars or motorbikes in the global north.
Ampersand is more than just a technology platform. It provides an alternative in the same style as the current motorbike. These electric motorbikes cost less to buy, require less power, and less maintenance. This reduction in fuel needs and maintenance will no doubt increase a driver’s income. Also, with an estimated five million motorbikes on the roads of East Africa, there could be huge savings in carbon dioxide releasing emissions hence contributing to the reduction of the global warming scourge.
Each electric motorbike has around 150 parts. The battery packs are specially designed and prototyped by Ampersand engineers in Rwanda. They are then manufactured abroad and sent back to Rwanda for assembling by local technicians.
The company has set up battery swap stations, each costing around $5,000 (£3,700), where drivers can exchange their depleted batteries for recharged ones. In Kigali, five of these stations are already in operation. However, the firm hopes to build more swap stations.
Rwanda’s government plays a major role in this change to e-transportation. Although there will be a loss of fuel tax revenue, a shift to locally produced power sources, reduced cost of fuel importation, and creation of job opportunities will be possible.
The pros of e-mobility out-weighs the cons and Rwanda is pioneering several incentives such as capped electricity tariffs for charging stations, rent-free lands, preferential parking and travel lanes for electric vehicles in Kigali, and restrictions on emissions of carbon dioxide-releasing vehicles to ensure this becomes a reality.
Currently, Ampersand has 73 employees at its Rwandan motorcycle factory and is moving to a new facility as its production grows.
Other transport companies have shown interest and willingness to be part of e-mobility. In Rwanda, Volkswagen in partnership with Siemens has been conducting an e-mobility pilot project since 2019 which has led to the successful launch of two charging stations in Kigali and twenty electric Golfs.
Imagine how fast Rwanda is racing to become a technologically advanced country in Africa. Since the country introduced its ecotourism, we have witnessed an explosive green environment.