From Gishushu to Gikondo, I rode a motorcycle that felt a lot different from those I was accustomed to in Kigali.
It was brand new, did not make noise or produce fumes. And it had no fuel reservoir.
Curious, I asked the motorcyclist about the engine. He said he had recently acquired the electric motorcycle which uses a rechargeable battery.
“My passengers are complimenting it but they say there aren’t many riders using it," he said.
It is a product of Ampersand, which assembles electric motorcycles in Kigali. Ampersand has already released some 20 electric motorcycles on the roads, and targets 500 by the end of 2020.
Didier Ndabahariye, a commercial motorcyclist in downtown Kigali said that the electric motorcycle is more cost-effective than one using fuel.
“A fully charged battery runs for about 65km and costs around Rwf900 to charge, while a non-electric motorcycle would require fuel worth Rwf 1,500 to cover the same distance,” he said.
Nevertheless, the charging stations are few, posing a challenge for motorcyclists who want to shift to this engine type.
“We have only three charging stations. One is at Rwandex, another at Kimironko and the last at Nyabugogo. When the battery runs out far from charging stations, it becomes a challenge,” said Faustin Uwiragiye, another motorcyclist.
Furthermore, a battery could suddenly stop working, like any other electric device, though the risk is not high, he said.
However, some motorcyclists are opposed to the electric motorcycle, saying that they may need lessons on its use which means extra costs to them.
“Riding an electric motorcycle may require us to take lessons. On top of that, they are not efficient for clients who want to travel long distances since charging stations are not as common as fuel stations,” said Gakire Edouard, a motorcyclist.
Emmanuel Hakizimana, the co-founder and country manager of Ampersand said testing and pilot phases to address these challenges had been concluded.
An Ampersand survey showed that an average motorcyclist rides 190 km daily, and needs to swap batteries at least three times a day.
“Motorcyclists should embrace new technology. In Rwanda we are avoiding everything that compromises climate and the environment, We have to work towards that goal,” said Mr Hakizimana.
The electric motorcycle costs around $1,500.
“The pilot phase has shown that electric motorcycles are possible here in Rwanda, we are talking with investors,” he said.
According to the Rwanda Utility and Regulation Board, 60 per cent of road users are motorcyclists. There are about 20,000 motorcycles in Kigali.