Eradicating carbon emissions through electric motorcycles

By Jane Babirye
On 27 September 2023 at 08:16

If you’re a public transport user within Kigali, one who enjoys getting to their destination fast or is always caught up by time yet has important things to do, my belief is that on one or more occasions, you have had the privilege to enjoy a ride on an electric motorcycle.

And if you own a four-wheel, still I believe that you have crossed paths with these elegant rides while cruising within the city.

Whatever it is that you were doing or were going, and maybe you thought they were just new motorbike models on the market, allow me inform you that it’s not just a trend.

Instead, it is Rwanda’s way of curbing down on the carbon emission from these ‘fast’ and ‘convenient’ means of transport.

ICE motorcycles impact on climate change

According to Rwanda’s National Greenhouse Gas inventory (2018), taxi motorcycles are the second largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions; estimated at 427. 45 gigaton (Gg) which is equivalent to 32.41% of emissions.

Thus, in 2021, the Government of Rwanda in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a project to put more electric motorcycles on Rwanda’s roads, phasing out polluting Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) motorcycles.

Understanding the greenhouse and its effects

In simpler terms, a greenhouse is a building with glass walls and a glass roof used to grow plants.

Because of their design, the houses allow regulation of climatic conditions as they trap sunlight during the day, staying warm inside even in winter.

In the same way, the greenhouse gases produced by human activities trap heat in the atmosphere, making the earth warmer than it should be.
GreenHouse Gases (GHGs)

Carbon Dioxide: Carbon Dioxide is produced by human activities that involve the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil.

These include; transportation, electricity and industrialisation. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “without carbon dioxide, earth’s natural greenhouse effect would be too weak to keep the average global surface temperature above freezing.” This is so because carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for up to 1,000 years.

Methane: Although it stays in the atmosphere for just a decade, a lesser period than carbon dioxide, methane is said to be more efficient at trapping radiation than carbon dioxide.

The gas is produced by human activities such as; leaks from natural gas systems, agriculture( rearing animals), and other forms of land use.

Nitrous oxide: With a life span of 120 years in the earth’s atmosphere, nitrous oxide emissions are a result of nitrogen fertilisers and fuel combustion as well as wastewater treatment.

Why Rwanda is transitioning to electric motorcycles

According to the Ministry of Infrastructure, registered motorcycles in Rwanda exceed 100,000 with the majority being ICE.

In May 2020, Rwanda launched a ten-year climate action plan (Nationally Determined Contribution) to reduce 4.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030. Since ICE motorcycles contribute enormously to carbon emission endangering not only the environment, but also human lives, hence the transition to e-mobility.

With the help of Rwanda Electric Mobility (REM) Limited, the government embarked on a retrofitting pilot project to change ICE motorcycles to electric ones.

In addition, two electric motorcycle brands: Spiro and Ampersand were launched on the market to further strengthen the endeavours.

aims to gradually phase out the use of traditional petrol-powered internal combustion engine motorcycles by converting them to electric bikes.

Why embrace electric motorcycles

Environmentally friendly:

By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, electric motorcycles play a vital role in combating climate change.

“While climate change cannot be stopped, we’ll need to reach carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner. Net zero means that no carbon is dumped into the atmosphere and is taken out”, emphasizes the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Less expenditure:

Speaking to IGIHE recently, Jules Samain, the CEO Spiro Motorcycles said that their motorbike taxi drivers report an increase in profits as running electric motorcycles is cheaper than the old-fashioned ICE motorcycles.

“Some MBTs have told us that their profits have risen from $6 a day to $11 or more,” he stated.

In addition, Spiro offers insurance, mobile phone contracts and other benefits to its riders.

Easy daily commuting

“Instead of having to make an early morning trip to the gas station when your bike is in the red zone, electric motorcycles allow you to simply plug in and charge up from the comfort of your own home”, said Mark Lindsell.

Furthermore, their easy sleek design paired with high functionality ensures a superior riding experience.

Less noise

Electric motorcycles not only reduce air pollution, but also noise pollution contributing to healthier and livable cities.

In addition, they are safer in traffic as one can hear the sounds around them.

“Gas motorcycles vibrate while you’re riding or waiting at the traffic lights. Although this issue is becoming better with newer models, that issue will never really go away,” said Mark Lindsell, an expert with electric motorcycles.

Low maintenance

Jules states that Spiro motorcycles are designed to offer high performance, durability and comfort. “They’re built to handle local terrains and climates effectively”, he remarked, adding that it’s what gives them a competitive edge.

Mark Lindsell also agrees, stating that all the motorcycles need is; “keep it charged, keep your tires pumped, make sure your brakes are working, check your chain, and enjoy the ride”.

Instant torque

Electric motors produce maximum torque from a standstill which means that electric motorcycles can accelerate immediately and smoothly.

Good health and lifestyle

Electric motorcycles are cleaner, cheaper to run and maintain than their gasoline counterparts, said Jules.

In 2019, President Paul Kagame shared a plan to convert Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) motorcycles to electric motorcycles.

Thereon, REM embraced Rwanda’s e-mobility vision and developed ‘unique features’ for its motorbike fleets.

In addition, they introduced retrofitting where old fashioned gasoline motorcycles are fully transformed into electric motorcycles.

Spiro is among players that launched an ambitious programme dedicated to taxi motorbikes to speed up the transition from polluting internal combustion engines to electric vehicles.