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Finally, electric vehicles story that answered fundamental questions

Business Daily finally told a story about electric vehicles in Kenya that went to the bottom of things.

Titled, “Highways to have EV battery chargers every 25km”, the September 26 story by Kabui Mwangi showed how electric vehicles will actually work on Kenyan roads.

Because, well, how else do you tell a story about a motor vehicle that’s rolling down the road powered by electricity, without showing how it actually gets that electric juice?

Yet practically all stories about this subject so far ignored basic viability questions.

Where do you charge the vehicles? At home? How many driveways have charging stations? Along the highway? Where? Who has seen signs for a charging station along Mombasa Road? Or between Naivasha and Nakuru?

Well, this story finally had answers. A new policy for battery charging for electric vehicles says that a charging station shall be available within a grid of 3 x 3km, the story said. And that along highways, motorists shall find charging stations every 25km.

Now isn’t that something!

These stipulations are in a new policy guideline by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra), the story said.

The story even added the projected cost of charging: Sh17 per kilowatt-hour. This was said to be a preferential tariff offer by the utility, Kenya Power.

But that figure lacked two critical things.

First, Business Daily didn’t say how they got it. Second, the number doesn’t make sense if you don’t tell readers what the ordinary rate is. No context.

Two more gaps the story left out: timelines and project ownership. When will these stations be built? By whom, private investors? Government?

Lastly, the story didn’t clarify things that raise eyebrows. For example, the story said that within cities, bus stops shall have charging facilities.

Have you been to Kenya? How practical is this? Bus stops here can barely park two buses. Matatus just ignore them. And not only because few can fit into a bus stop space — by habit matatu drivers deliberately obstruct competitors from getting ahead. The business depends on who gets the next customer.

Now, imagine adding to this chaos a charging station that deliberately stops – how many vehicles – on the road to get juiced up!

Still, this story was a win. Stories of electric vehicles that fail to interrogate infrastructure are naive. A discussion on infrastructure should at best precede, at worst parallel, any talk of implementation.

Anyone who says otherwise is selling you snake oil. This story did not sell snake oil.

 

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