Rwanda Chosen As African Testing Ground For Electric Vehicle Viability, Uganda Launches Assembly Plant

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
electric vehicle
In October, Rwanda became the first African country to feature a fully electric vehicle from German manufacturer Volkswagen. From left: Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO of Siemens for South and Eastern Africa; Soraya Hakuziyaremye, Rwanda Minister of Trade and Industry; Edouard Ngirente, Prime Minister of the Republic of Rwanda; Thomas Schaefer, Head of Volkswagen Sub-Saharan Africa and Michaella Rugwizangoga, CEO of Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda. Image supplied by VW

While many vehicle manufacturers in Europe are retooling their factories to produce electric-only cars, African countries have been slower to move. Two East African countries are making sure that they do not miss the electric vehicle trend.

Uganda launched an electric vehicle assembly plant and Rwanda is testing electric cars on the roads of Kigali. 

In October, Rwanda became the first African country to feature fully electric cars from German manufacturer Volkswagen, according to a VW press release.

Four versions of Volkswagen’s Golf model, now dubbed “e-Golf,” are on the streets of Kigali as part of a partnership between Volkswagen and mobile device-maker Siemens to test the viability of electric cars in Africa.

The plan is to have 50 of these electric vehicles and 15 charging stations available in the capital city by the end of the pilot project but no details on a timeframe were disclosed.

Siemens is building the electric charging infrastructure necessary for the project.

Rwanda was chosen for this pilot project because Kigali’s well-developed and reliable energy infrastructure is expected to support the anticipated need for electric vehicle charging stations throughout the city, Reuters reports.

None of the e-Golfs are available for purchase by the Rwandan public as yet. They are being used as part of the car manufacturer’s app-driven ride-hailing service called Move, according to AlJazeera.

The vehicles are part of viability tests to determine when and how VW should enter the African consumer market.

In Uganda, the state-owned Kiira Motors Corporation has built two battery-powered cars and a solar electric bus in a new electric vehicle assembly plant in Nakasongola, Busiweek reports.

The electric bus, known as the Kayoola Electric Vehicle Series, has been built in partnership with Chinese Equipment Manufacturer, Motor Co. Ltd.

The bus can travel around 186 miles on a single charge and can carry a maximum of 90 passengers.

Construction of another vehicle assembly plant is ongoing in Jinja, a city near Kampala. Production of the electric vehicles is expected to be moved to Jinja in June 2021, according to AllAfrica.

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Africa’s largest car-manufacturing country, South Africa, is still taking its time to embrace electric vehicle production. 

Auto-manufacturing makes up about 7 percent of South Africa’s economy. Seven carmakers run factories in the country including Volkswagen, Isuzu, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Ford, Daimler-Chrysler and Toyota.

Those manufacturers are trying to persuade the South African government that the future of the automobile is electric.

The manufacturers are presenting their plans and policy suggestions to the government and will await a response in 2020, says Mike Mabasa, CEO of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa.