President Museveni’s ambitious e-mobility plan has raised more questions among cyclists.
In his address to the nation on New Year’s eve, Museveni said the government has made a plan that would in the long run reduce the number of fuel-powered motorcycles in the country.
The main target is the boda-boda cyclists, who are said to account for more than 80 per cent of the Ugandan motorcycle market. According to Museveni, electricity-powered motorcycles will also be the answer to high fuel prices. According to Museveni, they are in talks with some motorcycle assembling companies in Uganda. According to the draft policy, they will be exchanging petrol-powered cycles with battery-powered ones.
“We have agreed with some investors to take away the petrol-diesel ones and give the owners electric ones, free of course. Just swap,” said Museveni.
Museveni said that the investor will foot the extra cost of the new electric motorcycle which is expected to be more expensive than the fuel-powered one. They will then recoup their investment from a fee paid by the now electric motorcycle owners when they take them for charging.
However, this has raised some questions amongst motorcycle owners, with some questioning how the issue of brand and efficiency will be handled.
“I own a Bajaj Boxer and it is the one I intend to buy again when this one is disposed of. But if I take it for the exchange, then what type would they give me? I like my Boxer, while another one loves a TVS,” said Musa Katende, boda-boda cyclist in Kampala.
Some cyclists in Kamwokya who preferred anonymity claimed that they have observed that electric motorbikes are not as durable as fuel-powered ones.
“We have our colleagues who have them, but they are already dilapidated, less than two years on the road,” they said, adding that the cost saved on fuel might instead go towards maintaining the condition of the vehicle.
However, an analysis of the fuel consumption compared to what is spent on electric cycles shows that at the end of the five-year period, the operator of an electric motorbike will have saved up to Shs 38 million. But the main question that they need the government to answer, is the issue of credit that cyclists still owe to the supplier companies.
Cyclists say that most of the machines, at least for boda-bodas are acquired on loan either from financial companies or importing and assembling companies. According to them, it takes between a year and two to clear it depending on the area of operation and the terms of payment.
They also questioned the ease of charging a battery, saying it is risky when going on a long journey when the battery runs out, yet there are very few charging stations. One of the companies contacted by the government through the ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation is BodaWerk International Uganda LTD, an innovative energy solution company.
According to the company which did not discuss the details of the deal with the government, they both assemble new electric cycles or modify existing ones from petrol consumption to battery-powered ones. Monday Shadrack, the technical sales manager at BodaWerk explains that when they get a motorcycle, they remove all the combustion and engine systems from the cycle and replace them with motor, battery, and controllers.
So, a customer has the option of either buying a new motorcycle that costs for up to Shs 11 million or having their current one converted at the cost of Shs 8 million. The batteries are made by recycling lithium dry cells and the battery is given a 5-year lifespan.
When the battery is fully charged, it can go for up to 150 kilometres, depending on the load, and the cycle has a sensor that shows how much battery power is left and the estimated distance it can go.
There are currently about 10 charging stations in Kampala, especially at fuel stations, including Kabalagala Shell Station, Najjanankumbi Stella stage, TotalEnergies-Namungoona, Kanyanya Gaz station as well as at Mukono opposite TotalEnergies station.
However, BodaWerk says they have accessories they give to their cyclists that can enable them to charge from anywhere including at home if the house is powered. Charging at a commercial station costs Shs 3,000-5,000 and it takes a battery 4-5 hours for the motorbike to get fully charged.
With this, the government and the suppliers will have to find a position where charging stations will remain viable even as people can have cycles charged from their homes so that the companies are able to recoup their investments. Another company in talks with the government is Zembo Motorcycles, another electric cycle assembler, also based in Ntinda.
Last year at the Presidential CEO Summit at Chobe in Zombo, Museveni said that the government would also encourage Uganda Development Bank (UDB) to give loans to those who wanted to buy electric motorcycles. There are also credit companies like M-Kopa that provide hire-purchase services for motorcycles.
Boda-boda cyclists asked that the government launch consultations and sensitization campaigns with them to respond to the questions that they have.
Source: The Observer