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Free electrics

We know the Government is keen for us to transition from petrol-powered motorcycles and scooters to electrics, but how far are they prepared to go? The government of Uganda has shown the way, by offering all Ugandan riders a free electric bike if they’re prepared to trade-in their petrol machine!

Uganda, like many African countries, relies on fleets of 125cc geared motorcycles as cheap local taxis. Governments are keen to electrify these ‘boda bodas’ or ‘okadas’, and back in October we reported how okadas are being banned in Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, though on safety grounds.

President Msueveni’s policy is more generous – in his year-end national address he announced that the government will provide a new electric motorcycle as a trade-in for any Ugandan giving up their petrol bike. But this won’t be a Zero or Livewire – the bikes on offer are Uganda’s domestically produced machines, looking like fairly basic 125cc-equivalents. Brand new, these cost less than £1,200.

The scheme will apparently be funded by private investors, who will be granted licences to operate battery swapping and recharging stations to recoup their investment. Will it work? More to the point, will Uganda’s example influence the UK government to boost its own electric incentives? It currently offers £150 towards the cost of a new electric moped, £500 for a motorcycle/scooter.

BMF Chair Jim Freeman thought it unlikely: “Does the Ugandan government’s scheme reflect what it will really take to switch away from ICE bikes in non-western economies? Does it have anything to do with the UK bike market? Rather obviously, its chalk and cheese. The UK market is incentivised differently. What’s missing in Uganda, at a guess, is the rural infrastructure, it’s much easier to find a gallon of gas 200 miles from Kampala than it is to have a swappable battery franchise. Or is solar farming going to make the difference? I suspect there’s more to this than meets the eye. Mind you, have they thought about exporting those £1,200 ebikes, bet they could make a profit?”

Written by Peter Henshaw

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