04 November 2021

Switching to electric vehicles is a mean to reduce greenhouse gases emissions and improve air quality in the City of Kigali

Over the last 150 years, human activities have greatly contributed to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which make the planet warmer. Anthropological emissions have also been responsible for air pollution which is now the fourth-highest cause of death worldwide.

In fact, one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities is from burning fossil fuels especially for energy production and transportation. In 2010 transport accounted for 14% of global greenhouse gases emissions [1]. Vehicles emissions are also the leading cause of air pollution and the most of the air pollution is taking place in cities where there is high population density with Kigali City being no exception!

A 3 months study conducted in Kigali from 2017 found that particulate matters (PM2.5 and PM10) concentrations in the city greatly exceeded WHO guidelines [2]. Whereas a 2012 research revealed at least 2,227 deaths per year resulted from air pollution. In Rwanda, high concentrations of these pollutants were largely attributed by vehicle emissions.

In response to this problem, Rwanda has put in place the motor-vehicle emissions inspection policy and implemented it through the Motor-vehicle Inspection Centre operated by Rwanda National Police. The Centre provides vehicle check services for gas emissions quality in addition to multiple performance and security parameters and all vehicles are required to undergo theses checks on regular basis. Recommendations are then issued in reference to approved standards. Other strategies that have been implemented to tackling air pollution include regular car-free days, creation of green spaces, car free zones, vehicle and power plant emissions standards, increase of forest coverage and the establishment of the African Air Quality and Climate Laboratory in Kigali.

In the near future, Rwanda is considering to issue policy guidelines to gradually do away with gas motorcycles as part of a wider plan to e-mobility. The programme will start with public transit operators, such as motorcycles, and move to buses and other automobiles. In fact, motorcycles are an indispensable mode of transport in Kigali City, with over 22,000 motorcycles; therefore to electrify all of them, it will impact the city’s air quality.

Now, some vehicle manufacturing companies are becoming more enthusiastic about the potential of e-mobility, and some of their activities have put in place. For instance, the Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station for electric motorcycles have been opened in source oil of Kacyiru. This EV charging is for SAFI; a green transport company which use only the electric motorcycles, committed to the sustainability of Green Mobility all over Africa starting with Rwanda. Ampersand has produced 10 electric motorcycles for test, and Volkswagen Rwanda has launched the first full electric car (not hybrid), in the pilot project with Siemens, which will set up charging stations, and more cars will join the market in coming months to bring the number to 20 and 15 charging stations.

Now it is well established that a transition to electric vehicles can immediately reduce toxic air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and improve the public health. Moreover, it is an essential part of a clean and efficient energy in the future [3]. 

Benefits of switching to electric vehicles in the City of Kigali

Electric vehicles will improve the air quality of Kigali, because they don’t emit pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and various oxides of nitrogen or emit tiny particulate matters from burning of fossil fuel.

The pollutants of concern in Kigali are Nitrous Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM). Study in Kigali City found that NO2 and PM concentrations are high and above international standards mainly along busy roads within the city, while sulfur dioxide and Carbon monoxide concentrations were acceptable as they were generally below the WHO guidelines values[4, 5]. Thus, it is possible that electric vehicles will reduce the harmful Particulate Matter and dramatically reduce NO2, as high quantity of these pollutants are attributed by fuel burning from vehicles especially old ones near the busy road of Kigali.

Improving air quality will have beneficial effect on public health. It will reduce the cardiovascular and respiratory diseases attributed by air pollution such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, and stroke which are some of the worst of human diseases [6]. Furthermore, shifting to electric vehicles will reduce noise pollution in Kigali city where speeds are generally low and traffic often stands still [3].

Switching to e-mobility which is a carbonless alternative will help the government of Rwanda through its green growth and climate resilient strategy, to have efficient resilient transport system by reducing the transport greenhouse gases emissions. The research conducted on the use of electric vehicles, concluded that replacing a fossil fuel-powered car with an electric model can halve greenhouse gas emissions over the course of the vehicle’s lifetime[7].

A further advantage of electric vehicles is that they are more energy-efficient than conventional vehicles; because the average amount of energy saved from electric vehicles compared to motor vehicles is approximately 60%, whereas conventional vehicle efficiency range between 17%-21% that mean they achieve the same performance without consuming much energy and save money as well[8]. For instance, Ampersand expects to put around $900 a year back into its customers’ pockets from fuel savings alone, doubling or tripling many riders’ incomes in the process!

Eventually, on national level, these electrical vehicles will help to reduce the petroleum imports as well as the dependence on oil. Therefore, recent advances in electric motorcycle, bus and car technologies hold much promise for Rwanda in tackling the issues of greenhouse emissions and air pollution.      

Ukwishaka David: Climate Change Data Officer/REMA

References

1.         IPCC, Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. 2014: Geneva. p. 2-5.

2.         REMA, Inventory Source of Air Pollution in Rwanda. 2018, Kigali.

3.         EEA, Electric Vehicles from Life Cycle and Circular Economy Perspectives. 2018, European Environment Agency: Luxembourg. p. 30-45.

4.         UNEP, Kigali City Air Quality Policy and Regulatory Situational Analysis. 2018, United Nations Environment Program: Kigali. p. 14-16.

5.         WHO, WHO Air quality guidelines for particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. 2006: Geneva.

6.         WHO, Climate change and Human Health: Risks and Responses. 2003, Geneva.

7.         Schulle, A. and C. Stuart, From cradle to grave: e-mobilityand the energy transition. 2018, European Climate Foundation. p. 10-17.

8.         US Department of Energy, All Electric Vehicles. 2019; Available from: https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/evtech.shtml#data-sources.

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