Rwanda says its citizens should consider using electric motorcycles in an effort to protect the environment and cut fuel costs.
Passengers and motorcyclists say the electric vehicles could change how Rwandans do business.
James Musisi is one of 10 drivers who have started using the motorcycles in what is known as the moto-taxi business — motorcycle taxis. He says the vehicles are quiet, which means passengers are able to make telephone calls while they travel.
Electric motorcycles are relatively low in cost when compared to other vehicles. One such bike costs $1,300. That is less than the $1,600 price for motorcycles that require fuel. Musisi notes that the electric bikes also require fewer repairs.
Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, has two charging stations for electric powered vehicles. A moto-taxi driver has to bring a dead battery to take a charged one, which runs for 70 kilometers. The price for recharging an electric vehicle is equal to the cost of the fuel for traditional motorcycles.
In 2016, four business leaders formed a start-up company called Ampersand. Its aim is to create a mass market for commercial electric motorcycles in Rwanda.
Josh Whale is the company's chief executive officer. He has high hopes for electric motorcycles in Rwanda.
He says, "For electricity, we found that the grid is sufficiently reliable in Kigali. There has been a lot of investment made in new (electric) transmission lines, which are operating well, so everything is good for us."
Engineer Collete Ruhamya is director-general of Rwanda's Environment Management Authority. She says the country has become an important player in the environmental protection movement.
"I don't see why Rwanda should be behind. I think it's the right time for Rwanda to come forward," she said.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame recently announced that his government plans to replace all motorcycles with new electric ones.
He said, "We will find a way to replace the ones you have now. We urge taxi-moto operators to help us when the phase-out process comes."
The push for electric motorcycles follows other moves the government has taken to protect the environment and keep Kigali clean.
Rwanda banned plastic bags over 10 years ago. And last year, it banned single-use plastic materials, including water bottles.
The United Nations notes that 8 million tons of plastic end up each year in the world's oceans, poisoning sea life and harming fisheries.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Words in This Story
motorcycle – n. a two-wheeled vehicle that is powered by a motor
taxi – n. a car or other vehicle used to transport passengers in return for payment
lubricant – n. an oil or other substance used to reduce resistance
battery – n. a container in which chemical energy is changed into electricity and used for power
commercial – adj. involving or related to trade or business
reliable – adj. dependable; good or trustworthy
bag – n. a device used to carrying things