Rolling into the age of e-mobility

Siemens and Volkswagen test new mobility concepts in Rwanda.

Electric cars and car sharing instead of privately owned, combustion-powered cars: The Moving Rwanda initiative is testing new mobility concepts in Kigali that might just catch on in other African cities. Siemens is delivering the charging infrastructure. 

Kigali is booming. The Rwandan capital is already home to more than 1.1 million people, and the greater metropolitan area is expected to have 4.5 million inhabitants by the year 2050. But the city’s infrastructure is already reaching its limits. Rush hour brings congestion to the streets and has become a real test of commuters’ patience. Rwanda’s biggest city isn’t alone. Populations and megacities across Africa are ballooning. Nigeria’s capital Lagos already has about 23 million residents, a number that’s expected to grow to more than 32 million by 2050. It could become the world’s biggest city – with 88 million inhabitants – by the year 2100.

Traffic jams cost time and money

This explosive population growth is creating problems across the African continent. Daily traffic jams cost time and money, and poor air quality threatens human health. Clean mobility solutions are needed: solutions like Moving Rwanda, a digital mobility project that’s a collaboration between Siemens, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the German development agency GIZ, Volkswagen, SAP, and the engineering firm Inros Lackner. The parties have agreed to work together to develop digital mobility solutions for Rwanda that will contribute to the country’s sustainable development.

In a pilot project, Siemens and VW explore the potential of e-mobility for helping transform how people travel throughout Africa’s cities. As many as 50 electric VW Golfs will be dispatched to Kigali for the project. They complement the fleet of about 200 gasoline-powered vehicles that Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda has already been offering to car-sharing and ride-hailing services in the Rwandan capital. The cars can be reserved via a mobile app called Move, which was developed by the local startup Awesomity.

eMobility charging station

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Encourage other cities

Mobility services like Move are especially useful in Kigali and other big cities because roughly three-quarters of Africans have a mobile phone but only four percent own a car. Car sharing and ride hailing could help Africa’s cities skip right over the age of private (combustion-powered) car ownership to one where e-mobility services prevail. The Moving Rwanda pilot project is intended to encourage other cities to launch similar trials. “Modern mobility concepts like this can point the way to the future for all of Africa,” says Germany’s Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller.

This e-mobility project has prompted African cities as key destinations to adopt innovative transportation models.
Sabine Dall'Omo, CEO for Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa

Siemens is contributing five electric vehicle charging stations to the pilot program in Kigali, each of which consists of two 22-kW AC chargers and one 50-kW DC charger for rapid charging. The first station is already in place on VW’s site in Kigali. The other four will be installed at strategically important locations like the city’s airport and conference center. In the first phase of the project, the partners want to gather important information about the reception of electric vehicles and about users’ charging habits. Later they plan to open the charging stations to other users like companies, fleet operators, and private vehicle owners.

Rwanda is keen to explore new forms of mobility

Kigali is an excellent choice for testing e-mobility. The city is big enough for a test under realistic conditions but not too large for a small vehicle fleet. “In addition, the city’s power supply is one of the most reliable in Africa, and it’s largely based on renewables like hydroelectric power,” said Marco Rahner, who’s responsible for bringing new Siemens technologies to the African market. “The wireless network is also very good and stable.” And finally, the political situation is also favorable: Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame supports new forms of mobility like electric cars, and the country is politically stable with consistently strong economic growth.

 

Interest in e-mobility is also growing elsewhere on the continent. “This e-mobility project has prompted African cities as key destinations to adopt innovative transportation models," said Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO for Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa. "Since the launch we’ve received strong interest in our charging solutions particularly from the East and West African regions and we are considering launching similar projects in other countries.” 

The African population is expected to double to around 2.5 billion people by 2050. To ensure that young people on the continent have good prospects for the future and good prospects for staying in Africa, an estimated 20 million new jobs would have to be created there every year. Moving Rwanda wants to help create those jobs. “We want to provide modern training opportunities for young people in Rwanda,” explained Development Minister Gerd Müller. “In doing so, we’re giving them a future in their home country as mechanics maintaining the vehicle fleets or as software developers. It’s another concrete way that we’re implementing our ‘Marshall Plan with Africa’.”

 

 

Along with Volkswagen and the GIZ, we want to establish quality training that leads to strong employment opportunities.
Christian Hagemann, Siemens Government Affairs

Siemens and Volkswagen want to create vocational training opportunities in Rwanda to cover the growing need for people with technical expertise on e-vehicles and the charging infrastructure. “There’s a need for mechatronics technicians and for medium and high voltage technicians,” explained Christian Hagemann of Siemens Government Affairs. The topic has already been discussed in joint workshops with Volkswagen and other companies, and Siemens intends to develop the first modular training programs in the near future. “Along with Volkswagen and the GIZ, we want to establish quality training that leads to strong employment opportunities,” said Hagemann.

Author: Christian Buck

Photos: Siemens AG

2020-05-25

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