Rwanda’s first electric car hits the road as Volkswagen and Siemens choose Kigali as the first African country to test its electric e-Golfs

Volkswagen e-Golf. (autocar)
  • On Tuesday, the four electric cars were unveiled in a colourful ceremony witnessed by Rwanda’s premier Edouard Ngirente.
  • VW, which has a global target of producing 600,000 electric cars a year by 2022, will import 50 eGolf models to Kigali in the first few months. 
  • To move Kigali city residents without a hitch Siemens will build 15 charging stations in Kigali.

The “cleanest city in Africa” Rwanda’s capital is set to become even cleaner going forward with the arrival of the country’s first electric cars.

On Tuesday, the country in partnership with Volkswagen and Siemens under a pilot project unveiled four electric cars on the local market in a colourful ceremony witnessed by Rwanda’s premier Edouard Ngirente.

Rwanda is the first African country where Volkswagen is testing electric e-Golfs.

Rwandans are becoming increasingly aware that protecting the environment is a top priority. We are confident that the introduction of environmentally friendly transport services will accelerate the reduction of air pollution levels,” said Ngirente during the launch.

Mr. Ngirente added that he hoped electric car use in the country will expand, noting fuel products were Rwanda’s biggest import last year.

Already Rwanda has a fast developing electric motorcycles industry known locally as moto-taxi business and is urging its youth to dump ‘dirty’ petrol powered motorcycles for electric ones in an effort to protect the environment and cut fuel costs.

Importing the vehicles into Rwanda, which positions itself to foreign investors as a business friendly with reliable infrastructure, stability and relative ease of doing business, and where VW already assembles cars, is initially intended to test infrastructure and performance in the region’s climate.

We’ve been investing more than $30 billion into new electric vehicles and platforms and the entire world is moving in that direction,” VW’s Africa boss Thomas Schaefer told Reuters. “The plan for Africa is that ultimately, we replace the whole fleet into electric.”

VW, which has a global target of producing 600,000 electric cars a year by 2022, is starting small in Kigali, importing 50 eGolf models in the first few months. 

The vehicles - combustion-engine cars modified to run on electricity - will be integrated into the company’s app-driven “Move” service, launched last December.

To move Kigali city residents without a hitch Siemens will build 15 charging stations in Kigali.

Rwanda currently has an installed power generation capacity of 286 MW and the cars will mainly be charged at night, when there is an excess of power. Unlike many African nations, Rwandan electricity is relatively reliable.

The stations can charge up to 80 percent of a car’s battery within an hour, although it takes around 11 hours to charge a car at home, said Andile Dlamini, the group’s communications officer.

The eGolf’s range when fully charged, is up to 230 kilometers. VW’s new ID3 models set to be launched next year will have a range of 600 km.

To ensure ordinary Rwandans afford the electric cars, Schaefer explained that scaling up production and favorable government policy could help bring prices down.

“The Rwandan government is working on electric vehicle policy and if that policy favors electric cars over traditional, then that development can happen very fast,” Schaefer said.

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