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Energy transformation of transportation

The climate crisis and the corresponding growing need for green transportation solutions are the primary inspiration for research into electric mobility. Societies of different countries are and will be experiencing slightly different forms of this transformation, due to differences arising from preferences and habits of transportation and natural or infrastructural conditions of the local environment. Dr. Jacek Pawlak, along with other researchers from Imperial College London including:: Aruna Sivakumar, Tang Li and Winston Ciputra undertook an analysis of two-wheeled transportation in Kenya, assessing the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of electric motorcycles and the potential for a transition to electric mobility. The project was funded by Climate Compatible Growth. The analysis of infrastructure, charging strategies, as well as economic benefits draws conclusions that are also useful for societies in other countries. The full analysis will be presented in January 2023 at the U.S. Annual Meeting – Transportation Research Board (TRB) and published in the accompanying journal: Transportation Research Record (https://journals.sagepub.com/home/trr).

Features of Kenya’s transportation

Paratransit, or informal public transportation, is one of the dominant forms of meeting mobility needs in sub-Saharan Africa, so the transition to electric transportation must take into account not only cars or buses, but also or even primarily motorcycle cabs, locally known as boda boda. By understanding existing demand patterns, including frequency of travel, distance travelled, it is possible to prepare a solution that meets the needs of Kenyan society [1]. According to Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) (2021), there were about 3.6 million registered vehicles in 2019, of which two- and three-wheeled motorcycles accounted for 1.7 million [2]. An increase in the popularity of these vehicles has been observed over the past few years, which may be due to their low cost of ownership and ability to access areas with poor road infrastructure [3].

The Kenyan government is encouraging the transition to electric mobility and supporting greener options by, among other things, lowering excise taxes on electric vehicles, as well as banning the import of used cars older than 7 years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions [2]. With current consumption and favourable geographical conditions, there is a surplus amount of electricity produced daily in Kenya that can be used to meet the demand resulting from the transition to electric mobility. On another note, further work is certainly needed concerning the energy infrastructure, especially transmission, due to existing areas without access to the national electricity grid (currently 85% of the population has access to electricity [4]).

 Research and data analysis

The data used in the project was derived from a survey conducted by a consortium for Research for Community Access Partnership (ReCAP), among passengers and cab drivers using motorcycles and tricycles in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana. The data collected included information on passengers’ daily habits, vehicle information, trips taken, cargo carried and demographic information otof respondents. The survey confirmed the existing trend toward short trips – trips of less than 10 km accounted for as much as 75% [1].

The study took into account not only the current energy infrastructure, but also the topography of the area, the weight of the vehicles, passengers and batteries powering the electric vehicles. The analysis performed assumed two options for recharging the batteries:

  • replacing the battery with a new one, charged during the route (charging power: 1000W)
  • charging at night, “as a backup” for a vehicle with a larger battery (charging power: about 500W)

The scenario of charging during the day was rejected at the preliminary stage of the analysis, due to the duration and, in the case of cab drivers, the resulting lost income. Comparing fuel expenses with electricity expenses made it possible to estimate that up to 85% of cases would be more profitable for the driver using an electric two-wheeler. Based on the analysis, it can be concluded that electricity generation in Kenya would be able to meet, to a large extent, the current needs arising from the use of electric two-wheelers by cab drivers. At the same the analysis revealed that under extreme circumstances, such as simultaneous charging of many vehicles, could lead to grid overload. The analysis did not take into account the grid infrastructure nor charging strategies, which should be the subject of further analysis. The findings indicate that Kenya should further develop its energy infrastructure, providing access to energy over a wider area and increasing its production, while also preparing for a potential energy transition in other areas of transportation.


For many countries, including Poland, transportation is the foundation of economic development. Therefore, reducing the sector’s greenhouse emissions is key to achieving climate neutrality. What conclusions can be drawn from the analysis conducted in the context of transportation in Kenya? First, the energy transition in transportation is not only about manufacturing of efficient electricity-powered devices. Global solutions will help accelerate the electric transformation in this sector, however, they need to be adapted to local conditions. In the case of Kenya, there is great potential for clean electricity generation derived from the abundant solar energy availability. However, for this to translate into feasibility of transition in transformation, there is a need for an adequate energy infrastructure, from generation from renewable sources, to transmission to the points of consumption (charging) and to, a well thought-out battery charging strategy for each type of vehicle and user. Only then can the electrification of transportation respond effectively to the needs of the local communities as well as the broader economy.


  1. Pawlak J., Sivakumar A., Ciputra W., (2022) Feasibility of Transition to Electric Mobility for 2-wheeler Taxis in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Case Study of Rural Kenya
  2. SuM4All – Sustainable Mobility for All (2021). Electromobility in the Global South: An Equitable Transition toward Road Passenger Transport Decarbonization. SuM4All. [https://www.sum4all.org/data/files/electromobility_in_the_global_south_an_equitable_transition_toward_road_passenger_transport_decarbonization.pdf, dostęp: 25.10.2022].
  3. EPRA (2020). Combined reports on the development of electric mobility policies in Kenya, EPRA. [http://epra.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Report-Integrating-Electric-2-3-wheelers-into-existing-Urban-Transport-Modes-in-Kenya-.pdf, dostęp: 26.10.2022].
  4. IEA (2020). SDG7: Data and Projections. IEA. [https://www.iea.org/reports/sdg7-data-andprojections/access-to-electricity, dostęp: 25.10.2022].

Jacek Pawlak
Research fellow at Imperial College London

Sailor, traveller, dad and researcher. This is how Dr Jacek Pawlak, a research fellow at Imperial College London, can be portrayed in a nutshell. His professional career is linked to his passion for travel: he specialises in analysing and modelling the impact of new technologies on transport or urban systems.

Written by:

Jacek Pawlak, Joanna Rancew

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