Kenya continues to experience a biting fuel shortage that has pushed motorists to panic-buying, with long queues being witnessed at filling stations across the country.
Several governmental agencies have addressed the near-crisis situation, with petroleum suppliers being warned against hoarding the essential commodity.
Fortunately, for the motorists who have shifted to electric vehicles, the scramble for fuel has become a thing of the past.
An electric car charging
There is a growing demand for electric vehicles not just in the Kenya but across the world. Opibus, which recently launched its services in the country, focuses on electric vehicles. The company specializes in multiple conversions of units of motorcycles and buses to electric.
With this trend, an all-female group is out to cash in on this shifting tide of motorists moving to electric cars in droves.
Beatrice Wanjiru, Lucy Mugala and Esther Wairimu are part of the team behind these operations, essentially changing the norm as it is viewed as a man’s job.
Wanjiru is a 24-year-old electrical engineer, Mugala is a 27- year-old mechatronics engineer and 26-year-old Wairimu is a mechanical engineering expert.
Opibus, located at the industrial hub on Mombasa Road, is increasingly converting electric cars in mass, because of the steadily rising demand. But this is a job like any other for the trio, who find joy in their work.
“Most people think that disassembling a vehicle is very complex. But I find it very simple, for instance, to remove and re-install a car engine. You only need to employ some very basic tools and you’re good for the job,” Wairimu told the media.
The Conversion process
“So once a vehicle comes into the workshop, we begin tearing the vehicle by removing the engine, fuel tanks, gearbox. whereby we separate the gearbox from the transfer case.”
“We then begin the conversion process that is the battery fastening, coupling the motor to the transfer case, basic wiring on the power shelf.”
“In designing the battery system, we design a box whereby we are going to fit our batteries and do basic wiring on how power is going to flow from the batteries to the controller and the motor,” Wairimu stated.
She added that the process takes an average of two days for the car to be fully converted.
“For converting a Toyota Land Cruiser, which is commonly used for game drives and excursions, the motorist parts with Ksh4.4 million ($39,000).”
Benefits of Converting to electric
The trio noted that the maintenance and utility cost of the car would reduce by half in the long run hence getting the motorists’ initial capital of the investment back.
In the case of a bus, about 30 charged electric mobility cells are needed to charge one bus, according to Wanjiru.
She added that it takes a bus to go from 0 to 80 per cent charge in about 30 minutes. Further, an 80 per cent charge could take a motorist a distance of 150 kilometres.
“We also sell solar panels and battery packs which are used as back-up systems by the safari cars in case the battery runs low while in the Maasai Mara or any other destination,” Wanjiru noted.
According to Mugala, a car ought to meet the minimum requirement before they agree to begin the conversion process.
“You have to choose a motor with the right ratings, ensure the battery pack matches the motor and that the controller has suitable requirements. You have to come up with a wiring system for the entire car and fix it manually,” Mugala reiterated.