Feature: Chinese electric vehicles begin to transform transportation in Ethiopia

(Xinhua) 13:50, March 09, 2024

A worker assembles an electric minibus at a factory in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, March 6, 2024. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

ADDIS ABABA, March 8 (Xinhua) -- On a typical sunny day in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, Adugna Adamu was offering a taxi service from the Bole Airport area to Piazza, the city's atmospheric old town, with one of the electric minibuses that have recently begun plying the streets of the capital.

The introduction of modern electric vehicles (EVs) for public transportation came after the government announced its plan to ban the importation of gasoline or diesel vehicles as part of its efforts to fast-track the transition to electric mobility in the face of a global fuel price hike.

The driver said these electric vehicles are bigger, quieter, and more cost-effective and user-friendly than the conventional minibuses that run on gasoline. "EV owners earn more daily income than owners of conventional minibuses. We charge the EV for 40 minutes during lunchtime and, unlike in the past, we are relieved from fuel expenses and long queues at petrol stations," Adamu told Xinhua in an interview.

The East African country spent 6 billion U.S. dollars on the import of fuel in 2023, over half of which went to fueling vehicles, according to the Ethiopian Ministry of Transport and Logistics. Additionally, pollution levels in city centers due to these vehicles are reportedly off the charts.

Besufekad Shewaye, the general manager of Belayneh Kindie Metal Engineering Complex, is pictured during an interview with Xinhua in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, March 6, 2024. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

According to incomplete statistics, there are roughly 1.2 million vehicles in Ethiopia, with a big chunk of them being well over 20 years old. Most of the cars on the road are secondhand imports, and black smoke is often seen rising from the rear of these cars.

"I have driven different types of vehicles, but this one is unique in that it is more comfortable and does not pollute the air," said Adamu as he gave a ride to 15 passengers, most of whom were experiencing their first-ever battery vehicle excursion.

The electric minibuses are assembled by a local company called Belayneh Kindie Metal Engineering Complex, with components imported from China. The Chinese Golden Dragon Company supplies components to the local company, which assembles both EV minibuses and 12-meter-long big buses to meet the country's ever-growing demand for EVs.

Besufekad Shewaye, the general manager of the Ethiopian company, said the business relationship with Golden Dragon Company is structural since the Chinese company has been supplying diesel and luxury buses to the local company for 10 years.

A worker charges an electric minibus at a factory in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, March 6, 2024. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

Noting that EV minibuses are new for Ethiopian public transportation services, Shewaye said he is witnessing a very promising market for them in Ethiopia since the country is abundant in hydroelectricity.

"Starting from mid-2023, we imported completely knocked down electric vehicles, assembled 216 electric minibuses, and made them available to the Ethiopian market," said the general manager, indicating that the company has so far sold out 50 percent of the assembled electric minibuses to transportation service providers and government offices, among others.

As part of its 10-Year Perspective Development Plan that runs from 2021 to 2030, the Ethiopian government plans to import 4,800 electric buses and 148,000 electric automobiles.

The government of Ethiopia has allowed the duty-free importation of EV parts as a way to promote the use of EVs and knowledge transfer. The EV price is more competitive if they are assembled locally, and it can also help boost local employment, Shewaye said.

With a full battery charge, the 15-seat electric minibuses can travel between 270 and 350 kilometers depending on the use of the air conditioner and the load of the vehicle.

This photo taken on March 6, 2024 shows an electric minibus on the road in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

"We imported direct current charging machines (fast charge) and provided them to commercial users with the government supporting us by making available the necessary power supply to the charging machines. It takes about 40 minutes to fully charge the minibus with a fast charge," he added.

In addition, the company has also started assembling big electric city buses with components imported from China. The big electric and luxurious buses, which are equipped with Wi-Fi, will be ready for the market in three months, according to Shewaye.

Bezuayehu Abera, a production manager at the company, recalled the successful transfer of knowledge and skills from Chinese EV engineers to local employees of the company.

The first 50 electric minibuses were assembled with the help of Chinese colleagues. Acknowledging China's advancement in EV technology, Abera said the Ethiopian technicians would not have been able to assemble the electric vehicles independently had it not been for the training offered to them by the Chinese engineers.

"The Chinese EV engineers have come here and shared their skills and knowledge on EV technology both in theory and practice. After we took the training, we are now able to assemble the electric vehicles ourselves," Abera said.

(Web editor: Cai Hairuo, Liang Jun)


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