Some weeks ago, a Kenyan registered Tesla was doing rounds on the internet and everybody wanted to have a feel of this magic piece from Elon Musk. It was said to be the first-ever Tesla registered in Kenya, and some of the funny comments were that the owner needed to have imported a power bank too.

While not something that one encounters every day, electric vehicles (EVs) have already made their presence in Kenya. There are even some startups that are making a huge bet on the same. However, these are majorly available in the cities such as Nairobi, and people upcountry may never have encountered the same.

πŸ“· What is reported to be the first Tesla registered in Kenya. Source: Twitter

What does the future hold for Electric Vehicles in Kenya?

It is not easy to tell at the moment, but two factors could significantly influence the future of EV adoption in Kenya. This is the use of EVs in other markets such as Japan and the rise of startups that are focused on EVs.

Adoption of electric vehicles in Japan

A defining trend in the automotive industry in Kenya is the importation of second-hand cars from Japan.

These account for the bulk of cars sold in Kenya today, and as the adoption of electric cars increases in Japan, these will definitely start making their way into Kenya, and Nissan Leaf is already leading the pack.

The more these vehicles are adopted in Japan and other markets where Kenyans import second-hand cars from, the more we are likely to see more electric cars in Kenya.

EV startups in Kenya


For those who are keen on sustainability, Opibus is providing mobility solutions that offer that. The Swedish startup that is based in Nairobi converts ordinary cars from petroleum-powered to electric vehicles. Already, they have converted several vehicles that are in use in some game reserves such as Ol-Pejeta Conservancy.

However, the cost of conversion is out of reach for most people. At an upward of $30,000, this is out of reach for most people and is more expensive than the average cost of vehicles that Kenyans own. Hopefully, the cost will come down in the future.

An interesting aspect is that Opibus is targeting a very huge market that includes matatus (public transport vehicles) and boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis). If they crack this market, the future of the startup will be great and EVs will become the norm.

Nopea Ride

Another startup with Finnish roots, Nopea Ride, offers taxi services in Nairobi using only electric cars. Currently, Nopea Ride has a charging station in various malls in Nairobi where drivers can charge their vehicles for free.

The startup seeks to provide affordable ride-hailing services with higher earnings for drivers and in an ecosystem that takes care of the environment. With a fleet of 30 vehicles at the beginning of the year, the startup aims to increase these to 100 by the end of 2021.

This number is very small, but it opens up a new era in the taxi industry, as well as allowing many people to experience electric vehicles.

Challenges for electric vehicles in Kenya

Several challenges need to be overcome for EVs to gain root in Kenya. A stable electric grid, access to charging stations, government policies that encourage EV, and availability of after-sale services are just a few that are needed.

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