Is Rwanda’s electric vehicle push faltering?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022 07:50 | By
Is Rwanda’s electric vehicle push faltering?
Electric carmakers have been attracted to Rwanda by incentives. PHOTO/Courtesy

Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame wants to transform the economy of the tiny, landlocked country. A key part of the plan is to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the nation’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, which account for 40 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange expenditure.

So, the government has launched a range of incentives to encourage electric vehicles. Electric cars, their spare parts, batteries and charging station equipment have been exempted from VAT, import and excise duties. Meanwhile, electric vehicles can be charged at a heavily subsidised electricity tariff.

First proposed in around 2019, but held-up by the Covid pandemic, the incentives came into effect in April 2021. Germany’s Volkswagen was one of the first beneficiaries of the government strategy. It launched the e-Golf model in Rwanda in 2019.

Only 20 cars available

The pilot project started with four of the cars and two charging stations in Kigali. VW’s original plan was to expand the service to 50 cars and 15 charging stations, as part of its cab-hailing app called Move. However, three years later, only 20 of the cars are on the road and they have been removed from the ride-hailing service.

Instead, they ferry customers from several high-end hotels, the international airport and the Kigali Convention Centre. “The unevenness in road infrastructure and the height of speed-bumps turned out to be too challenging for the e-Golf, which has a relatively low ground clearance,” says Allan Kweli, head of operations at Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda. There was particular concern about damaging the underside of the car, where the batteries are located. VW still remains optimistic about Rwanda. It is planning to import its ID.4 electric car, which has a higher ground clearance.

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