Volkswagen is importing a batch of electric-powered versions of its Golf hatchback car to Rwanda for a local ride-hailing service, establishing a bridgehead in the country that it hopes to expand to other nations as it seeks to increase market share globally.
Importing the vehicles into Rwanda – which sells itself to foreign investors by touting its reliable infrastructure, stability and relative ease of doing business, and which is a place where VW already assembles cars – is initially intended to test infrastructure and performance in the region’s climate.
“We’ve been investing more than $30bn into new electric vehicles and platforms and the entire world is moving in that direction,” Thomas Schaefer, a managing director for VW in Africa, told the Reuters news agency.
“The plan for Africa is that ultimately, we replace the whole fleet into electric.”
VW, which has a global target of producing one million electric cars a year by 2022, is starting small in Kigali: importing 50 e-Golf models in the first few months.
The vehicles – combustion-engine cars modified to run on electricity – will be integrated into the company’s app-driven Move service, launched last December.
German power equipment firm Siemens will build 15 charging stations in Kigali.
The stations can charge up to 80 percent of a car’s battery within an hour, although it takes around 11 hours to charge a car at home, said Andile Dlamini, a VW communications officer.
The e-Golf’s range, fully charged, is up to 230km (143 miles). VW’s new ID3 models to be launched next year will have a range of 600km (373 miles).
Rwanda has an installed power generation capacity of 286 megawatts. Unlike many nations in Africa, Rwanda boasts electricity that is relatively reliable. And the cars would mainly charge at night, when there is an excess of power.
Edouard Ngirente, Rwanda’s prime minister, said he hoped electric car use could expand, noting that fuel products were Rwanda’s biggest import last year.
Schaefer acknowledged the high price of electric cars would not appeal to most African consumers, but said scaling up production and favourable government policy could help bring prices down.
“The Rwandan government is working on electric vehicle policy, and if that policy favours electric cars over traditional [ones], then that development can happen very fast, Schaefer said.