Electric cars and why it is time to embrace sustainable mobility: My experience as a user

By John Msingo

The latest craze in Nairobi is electric vehicles. While sceptics often criticize their limited range (the distance a car can cover on a single charge), expensive price tags, and unsuitability for rural areas, it is time we explored the truth behind these misconceptions.

One of the most striking advantages of electric cars is their simplified design. Unlike traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, electric cars have fewer moving parts, resulting in a 60% reduction in components. Say goodbye to hours spent in the garage fixing or servicing your car.

Take our company car, for example, a VW E golf. It only requires an annual inspection, which costs less than KES10,000, making maintenance a breeze.

However, one of the foremost concerns for potential electric car owners is range – the distance a car can move without recharge. This distance is primarily determined by the battery size, typically ranging from 20-30 kWh, 40-60 kWh, and above 80 kWh. With these specifications, cars can cover around 250 km or even exceed 500 km for larger battery capacities. But other factors like driving style and car type influence the actual range.

Suppose you commute daily from Ngong to Nairobi town using an EV, roughly 26 kilometres, the car will require charging twice a week. That will provide enough power for your daily runs, making it more than sufficient for personal use.

Now, allow me to highlight the elephant in the room: battery longevity. Many electric car manufacturers offer warranties for their batteries. Most provide a five-year warranty for new batteries, with some companies like Mercedes Benz EQS offering an impressive ten-year warranty while Tesla guarantees eight years.

Other companies often use mileage, with ranges between 100,000 to 150,000 miles (160,000 km to 241,000 km), as a standard. In practice, most car batteries easily last beyond fifteen years. Even when an electric car battery is no longer suitable for driving, it can find a second life as a home storage battery, serving an additional seven years when integrated with a home solar system.

While the maintenance required for electric vehicles is significantly lower than traditional cars, some aftersales support is still necessary. The good news is that companies like AfricaNEV, Advanced Mobility, EVChaja, Basigo, and Knights Energy have recognized this need and partnered to conduct the first-ever open EV technician training in Kenya. With the emergence of skilled technicians, the scarcity of support will become a thing of the past.

Yet, one of the challenges hindering the electric vehicle revolution in Kenya is the lack of local investment. Most e-mobility companies worldwide rely on venture capital for funding, and a global recession can negatively impact this supply. As we envision a future where electric vehicle companies become global leaders, it is crucial to attract local investors. The electric vehicle sector holds immense potential, and local investments could be the catalyst for its transformative growth.

Geography may not seem directly related to electric cars, but it can influence the user experience significantly. Allow me to share a personal experience from February. My CEO and I had a midday meeting in Nakuru, and on our way back to Nairobi, we had concerns about our car’s charge. However, thanks to the growing charging infrastructure, we were able to connect to a charger in Naivasha, courtesy of KENGEN.

Although we could not achieve a full charge due to time constraints, our worries about range anxiety slightly reduced. With every kilometre driven, we realized that electric cars measure charge in terms of actual kilometres.

When we reached Viewpoint, we only had  10 km of range remaining. But the distance to Nairobi was 64 kilometres. My CEO studied the terrain and told me we would drive downhill for the better part of the remaining distance.

As we continued our journey back to Nairobi, we faced a few nail-biting moments. Fortunately, electric vehicles possess a remarkable feature called regenerative braking, which allows the motor to assist in slowing down the car and returning power to the battery.

This technology played a crucial role in our journey. At some point, we encountered a police checkpoint that required us to switch off the car temporarily. Although we lost 3 km of range upon restarting, we persevered and arrived safely in Nairobi, ultimately reaching Westlands with 18 km of range remaining.

While this journey was an eye-opener for me, it solidified our company’s commitment to ensuring other e-mobility users do not go through the same harrowing experience. Our motto, “Charge everywhere wherever you want,” drives our dedication to establishing a robust charging infrastructure in Kenya.

Kenyans need to join the rest of the world in embracing the electric vehicle revolution. These vehicles have numerous advantages, including simplified maintenance, regenerative braking, and extended battery warranties. Electric cars are set to become the future of transportation.

Let us remember that new crazes are born out of innovations like e-mobility. With each passing day, we witness a positive shift toward sustainable transportation, driven by clean energy and enhanced user experiences. So, fasten your seatbelts and join us on this electrifying journey into the future.

John Msingo is the Chief Revenue Officer for EVChaja, a company dedicated to installing, operating, and maintaining electric vehicle charging infrastructure for private EV owners, fleets, and the public. Follow us on our social media platforms: @evchaja on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *