Free electric motorcycles: This country just unveiled the largest program

"These bikes are 60 percent cheaper to operate than the current ones because they don’t take fuel."
Deena Theresa
Zembo motorcycle
Zembo motorcycle

Zembo 

One country has begun the new year on a good, green note. Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni announced during his year-end national address that his government would provide electric motorcycles free of cost to replace internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. The ambitious move makes Uganda the first country to do so.

President Museveni said that the government entered an agreement with investors to see motorcycle and boda boda (motorcycle taxis) riders receiving free electric motorcycles as a trade-in for ICE-powered ones, the NilePost reported.

"We have agreed with some investors to take away the petrol ones and give the owners the electric ones. This swap will save motorcycle operators 50 percent of the cost," said Museveni.

The President also added that the investors would be licensed and permitted to operate charging stations, thereby helping to recoup their investment.

The largest program to replace ICE-powered motorcycles in a country

The Ugandan government had earlier popularized electric boda bodas in the country by partnering with private companies, including Zembo, that are already offering electric motorcycles in the form of boda bodas.

These motorcycles are domestically-produced models that cost around five million Ugandan Shillings (USD 1,338.97).

The grand plan doesn’t end with environmental benefits. In fact, it goes the extra mile to support independent motorcycle taxi operators with lower operating costs, according to Electrek.

"These bikes are 60 percent cheaper to operate than the current ones because they don’t take fuel. Charging the motorbike takes a very small fraction. They don’t have a lot of serviceable parts, and the operator gets a lot more money," Dr. Monica Musenero, Ugandan Science and Technology Minister, said.

"Because they are made here, we are taking care of safety measures and local circumstances. For example, if it is stolen, it will report to us, and we will be able to switch it off. If you try to remove parts, it will report. This will enhance the security of the motorcycle," she explained.

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Free electric motorcycles: This country just unveiled the largest program
A battery swapping station.

The Ugandan government plans to shift the entire transport system from petrol driven to electric

However, these motorcycles are primarily designed for the urban commute – a single charge can provide 43 miles (70 km) of range.

Musenero mentioned that the most expensive component of the electric motorcycle is the battery. But, here, the rider doesn’t have to own batteries. Instead, private companies will be leasing the batteries. Zembo already operates several charging and swapping stations in Kampala, the country’s capital.

"When running low, the rider will go to the next charging station to change it and pay some money to get another one and leave the one which is low at the station," said Musenero.

Uganda doesn’t want to stop with electric motorcycles. Existing electric vehicles will receive incentives, and the government plans to shift the entire transport system from petrol driven to electric, the NilePost reported.

"We are working on plans to shift to electric buses, electric cars, and electric motorcycles. The shift in transport vehicles is not only in respect of motorcycles. It also involves the buses, cars, mini-buses, pick-ups, etc.," Museveni said.