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Electric tuk tuk debuts in Kenya

Evelyn Makena @evemake_g

Rickshaws or tuk tuks as they are commonly known locally, have become a popular means of transport. The means of transport, which is mainly preferred for its ability to navigate traffic faster ,however, contributes to noise and air pollution.

A Kenyan company, Dave Tuk Tuk Ltd, has introduced electric tuk tuks into the market as an ecofriendly alternative. A-first-of-its-kind in Kenya, the electric tuk tuk is powered by a battery as opposed to fuel or diesel, which the existing tuk tuks rely on.

A fully charged battery can go to up to 120kms. Use of batteries ensures that there are no emissions released to the atmosphere, thus it’s a cleaner alternative. “Absence of an internal combustion engine also ensures that it doesn’t produce noise,” says Aanchaal Dabral, public relations manager, Dave Tuk Tuk Ltd.

The battery, which takes eight hours to get fully charged, only consumes three units of electricity equivalent to Sh40. “Petrol or diesel fuelled tuk tuk need Sh600 worth of fuel to cover a distance of 120kms, making the product more cost-effective,” says Aanchal.

It has five seats including that of the driver unlike the conventional tuk tuk with three seats, meaning that the owners can earn more from a single trip. The battery has a universal charger and does not require a special socket or charging station.

It has a life span of one year after which it needs to be replaced. According to Nirmit Dave, technical director, Dave Tuk Tuk Ltd, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) approved tuk tuk will help reduce traffic-related pollution in the country.

“Kenya mainly relies on electricity generated from hydroelectric and geothermal sources. Both are clean sources of energy. Use of electrically charged batteries ensures that we are tapping into clean energy to save for our environment,” says Nirmit.

A research carried out by United Nations Evironmental Programme (Unep) in 2015 identifies traffic emissions as the leading cause of air pollution in Kenya’s urban areas. Air pollution is responsible for fatal respiratory diseases, lung cancer, stroke and heart diseases and is the single biggest killer in the world today, causing an estimated 6.5 million deaths annually.

Carbon monoxide and harmful particulate matter are some of the pollutants the traffic emissions release to the atmosphere. The research by Unep estimated that the transport sector alone contributed 40 per cent of particulate matter to the atmosphere.

World Health Organisation terms noise pollution as similarly harmful to health. Prolonged and excessive noise pollution is responsible for hearing loss, cardiovascular diseases sleep disturbance, change in social behaviour and learning problems in children.

The company that started its operations three weeks ago is based in Mombasa with plans to expand to other counties next year. A unit retails at Sh320,000 and comes with a spare battery. “The shift to clean fuel is aimed at giving Kenyans an innovation that will help them live in a safe environment and have healthier lives,” says Aanchal.

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