Kigali’s green transit wave: Electric buses steer toward sustainable urban mobility

By Esther Muhozi
On 12 December 2023 at 10:49

Passengers using public transport in the City of Kigali have embraced the use of large electric vehicles, a measure the Government of Rwanda anticipates will comprehensively address transport glitches.

These electric buses, identical in size to the conventional ones used for passenger transport in Kigali (commonly known as Yutong), differ significantly by operating solely on electricity.

Launched on Monday, December 11, 2023, at the Downtown Station, the first two buses, operated by the electric bus-savvy company BasiGo in collaboration with AC Mobility, incorporate Tap & Go technology for electronic bus trip payments.

The charging process for these buses takes approximately three hours to fully charge the battery, enabling them to cover a distance of 300 kilometers when fully charged—almost the entire span from Kayonza to Rusizi, which is 304 kilometers.

A noteworthy example illustrating the capabilities of these buses is that, on a given day, a large bus used in public transport within Kigali can travel up to 250 kilometers. The buses utilized in this initiative are 10.5 meters long and have the capacity to accommodate 70 passengers. Due to their robust battery capacity, specialized ’180 kW DC’ chargers have been installed at Rwandex in Kicukiro District in collaboration with the Rwanda Energy Group (REG).

Interested parties, whether individuals or companies, have the option to either rent or purchase these buses, with the cost ranging between Rwf200 million and Rwf300 million. In the initial testing phase, three prominent companies—Kigali Bus Service (KBS), Royal Express, and Volcano—have already signed agreements with BasiGo Rwanda.

Operations Manager at BasiGo, Allan Kweli highlighted that during the trial period, these companies will collect the vehicles from BasiGo Rwanda for use. He emphasized the intention to showcase the efficiency and environmental benefits of these buses during the testing phase before expanding operations.

The CEO of KBS Ltd, Ngarambe Charles, expressed satisfaction with the electric buses, emphasizing their environmental friendliness and cost-effectiveness compared to traditional diesel-fueled vehicles.

Passengers also shared their positive experiences, praising the reduction in waiting times and the environmentally conscious approach.

The Government of Rwanda has announced the requirement for 100 such vehicles to address public transportation challenges in Kigali. While two buses are currently in operation, two more are expected to arrive within two weeks, with additional buses scheduled for the coming year.

BasiGo Rwanda has already trained 80 drivers from collaborating companies for the trial phase, including technicians to address any mechanical issues promptly.

Doreen Orishaba, the Country Director of BasiGo Rwanda, highlighted the comprehensive preparation, including training for drivers and technicians, and revealed plans to establish additional charging stations at KBS Ltd, Royal Express, and Volcano Express.