Nairobi Motorists Ditch Fuel Cars for Electric Vehicles

Vehicles in traffic along Uhuru Highway in Nairobi, Kenya.
Vehicles in traffic along Uhuru Highway in Nairobi, Kenya.
Simon Kiragu

Nairobi motorists are converting their fuel cars to electronic vehicles (EV) in a trend that is slowly picking pace in the city as Kenya gears towards safe energy and curbing emissions. 

The government seeks to have 5 percent of all registered vehicles in Kenya being electric vehicles, by 2025. As of 2019, there were only 300 electric vehicles in the country. 

Kenyan taxi driver Charles Kaloki said that he opted for the electric car as it only took 30 minutes to charge besides saving on fuel. 

The taxi driver's conversion was facilitated by Finland’s electric taxi service, Nopea Ride, based in Nairobi. Nopea was launched in the county in 2018 and has charging stations at TRM along Thika Road, The Hub in Karen and Two Rivers Mall.


A Nopea Ride electric taxi at Two Rivers Mall

Some of the cars can be charged at home once a motorist installs a charging point. 

"You can make better money out of this than paying for fuel in every corner in town that you visit," he told Voice of America (VOA).

Nopea already has 30 rented electric taxis in the city and plans to extend the cars to 100 by December 2021. Opibus, a Kenyan startup based in Industrial Area, Nairobi, also converts fuel automobiles to EVs

The firm offers battery packs built with prismatic Lithium Iron Phosphate cells in three battery pack sizes. These are the 30 kWh, 50 kWh, and 70 kWh packs with ranges of up to 140 km, 245 km, and 350 km (87, 152, and 217 miles) respectively depending on the weight of the vehicle, terrain, and driving style. 

Batteries can last for 100 km up to 450 km depending on the terrain and type of car. 

When converting a vehicle, the engineers get to remove the engine, fuel tanks and gearbox, and replace them with their drive trains, which comprises an electric motor, battery packs, power electronics and auxiliary systems such as driver touch screen interface, and type 2 charging port.

After disassembling the fuel car, the new electric motor is mounted as well as batteries and power electronics. Functionalities such as power steering, 4WD and driving in shallow water are retained within the same total weight.

EVs came in three types. Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) combine the benefits of gasoline engines and electric motors. Plug-in hybrids use a petrol or diesel engine alongside the electric motor and 100% EVs use batteries which need to be charged. 

These EV's are superior to the combustion engine when it comes to torque and power. One can achieve peak torque from stationary with a continuous powerful acceleration.

They also have clean power (no emissions), increased performance, lower running costs and silent operation (no rumbling noise). To power the vehicles, mechanics offer a complete solution stretching from energy production to energy storage and charging.

Opibus CEO Filip Gardle recharges an electric car at their workshop in Embakasi, Nairobi
The Standard