The First Tesla Created a bad image of electric vehicles in Kenya but here is the truth about EVs.

For the past few days, there has been a fuss about the first (it could actually not be the first one) Tesla in Kenya. However, one of the videos that have been doing rounds on social media shows the Tesla being towed. This has elicited different reactions to electric vehicles in Kenya, especially from Kenyans on Social Media. The reactions were both positive and negative but the later carried the day. Unfortunately, much of the fears and ill talks we have seen about EVs are based on misunderstanding, misconceptions, and ignorance. We wish to share the truth about electric vehicles so that we can clear the misconceptions and misunderstandings. We aim at helping you understand why the rest of the world is moving to electric vehicles.

Where will the electric vehicles in Kenya be charged from?

You can charge EVs from home

Let us start by stating that this is not the first electric vehicle in the country, as of Dec 2018, there were over 350 electric vehicles on the Kenyans roads. You have never seen any of this standing by the roadside with a generator running while attempting to rescue the car from a dead battery. The country has 3 fast charging stations at TRM, Two Rivers and The Hub Karen.

For Tesla, the vehicle comes with a wall connector and a mobile connector. The wall connector is installed in your home and you can use it to charge your vehicle while at home. On the other hand, the mobile connector allows connecting to any standard electrical outlet out of home. It acts as a backup charging option.

The charging at home depends on the rating of the breakers in the house as shown in the table below

Charging PointMax. PowerPowerTimeRate
Wall Plug (2.3 kW)230V / 1x10A2.3 kW37h15m9 km/h
1-phase 16A (3.7 kW)230V / 1x16A3.7 kW23h15m14 km/h
1-phase 32A (7.4 kW)230V / 1x32A7.4 kW11h45m29 km/h

Most homes have the 32A and even if you don’t have it you can request your electrician to install that for you.

We don’t need fast charging public stations for us to own EVs.

The Tesla spotted in Kenya looks like the Tesla Model X 75D. It has a battery with a usable capacity of 72.5KWh. Its consumption rate is about 216Wh/km meaning that with a fully charged battery it can travel for 335km. The 335km is arrived at with the assumption that the battery will not be charged by regenerative braking which can’t be the case meaning that the range will go higher. Just to put this into perspective it is like traveling from Nairobi to Eldoret via Nakuru which is about 325km without requiring to recharge the battery. Now assuming your home is supplied with the single-phase 32A power supply, and you charge for about 10hrs, you will have enough charge in your battery to go for 290km. Statistics indicate that Kenyans with passenger cars (read private cars) drive for about 40km per day.

If an overnight charge gives you about 150 – 290km, do you still need a fast charger station for you to commute with an electric vehicle?

The battery will run dry in the middle of nowhere

Just like fuel cars have a gauge that shows the level of fuel in your tank, an electric vehicle has a very intelligent high voltage battery monitoring system. The system will always inform you of the level of the battery and how many more kilometers you can cover with it. Most of us are okay fueling with hundreds or several thousand depending on the distance we shall cover.

In a similar way, you can always plan your trips so that by the time the battery is low, you have reached a place you can recharge the battery for enough hours to take you to the next destination. Unless the battery monitoring system is faulty, or you are not diligent enough, you will never get stuck on the road because of a dead battery. Just like you still find some motorist stuck on the road because the vehicle run out of fuel, you may still find electric vehicles stuck on the road. But this will be because of the driver’s miscalculations or sheer ignorance.

It is too expensive to replace the high voltage battery

It is a fact the high voltage battery can be an expensive fix if it dies. But do you realize that even the engine in the fuel cars can also be an expensive fix if it also dies? Just as an example, a brand new Hilux 2KDA engine cost 1.5million shillings and an ex japan one will set you back about Ksh 500,000. While this is a pretty high price, it doesn’t prevent people from buying the car because they have been in use long enough to know that it doesn’t die in a single day. However, it losses its power with time and at some time, it just calls for a replacement. Even then, you don’t always have to go for the brand new one because there are other options like ex-japan, used and rebuilt engines.

High Voltage Battery Degradation Process

The same case applies to the high voltage battery in electric vehicles in Kenya. The battery will not die on you in a single day. However, like any other part in any vehicle, the battery will degrade with time leading to the battery losing its capacity to hold charge.

This battery degradation means that the individual cells within the battery pack can have a different charge level and capacity. Meaning that they are no longer ‘in sync’ with each other. Some cells can be ‘full’ while other cells in the same battery pack are ’empty’. The overall battery pack performance is limited by the vehicle’s battery management system. The system limits the performance to the weakest cell when discharging and the strongest cell while charging. As a result, the wider the cell imbalance, the narrower the usable range of the battery becomes.

The car’s battery management system uses only a limited range of battery cell’s actual physical capacity (80%-40% for Toyota and 80%-20% for Honda). As the usable capacity decreases and the cells become further and further out of balance with each other, the vehicle is only able to use less and less of the battery’s actual capacity. The vehicle cannot correct this imbalance problem on its own. The car cannot force the cells back into balance with each other.

If no attention is given to the hybrid battery, it will ‘fail’ and the check engine light/hybrid battery light will be illuminated.

Electric Vehicle Battery Reconditioning

With the understanding of the battery degradation process, it has become easy to extend the lifespan of a battery by the process known as high voltage battery reconditioning. In this process, individual modules of the battery are run through a series of deep charge and discharge to help it regain its capacity. Some modules regain their capacity but a few don’t. The few modules that don’t regain the recommended battery capacity are replaced. The cost of battery reconditioning is way lower than that of replacing the battery. So forget about the battery replacement cost and buy that electric vehicle or hybrid electric vehicle.

Electric Vehicles are too complicated

Let us move from the known to the unknown. We have all come across water pumps in one way or the other. Below are two water pumps of the same capacity, however one is diesel-powered and the other is electric-powered.

Petrol-Powered Water Pump
Electrically Powered Water Pump

Even if you have no technical background, by just looking at the two photos, you can tell that the petrol water pump is more complicated than the electric water pump. The same case applies to an electric and an internal combustion engine vehicle. The latter is way more complicated than the former. Here is another fact, the drivetrain of an ICE vehicle has over 2000+ moving parts as compared to the electric vehicle which has barely over 20 parts.

Now, look at what is under the hood of a Tesla.

It is literally empty, you would confuse it to the boot of your car. Those are electric cars for you.

Do you still think that an electric vehicle is more complicated than an ICE vehicle? I hope you found a reason to think otherwise.

Where will the electric vehicles in Kenya be serviced?

This was another concern that people had nut just before we go further, let us see what is serviced on the vehicles with an internal combustion engine. The service includes:

Monthly check of oil levels, hoses, belts, engine coolant, fuel filters, tires and tire pressure.

Checking after 3 months the oil filters, steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, battery cables, air filters, etc.

Even without going further, you realize that 80% of these service checks and activities revolve around the internal combustion engine which is absent in the electric vehicle. This means that you will save on the expense of that periodic visit to the service bay with an electric vehicle since it doesn’t need it. This doesn’t mean that you will not service your EV at all. The following still needs to be done on electric vehicles in Kenya.

  • Checking and replacing the cabin air filters
  • Checking the vents for the high voltage battery cooling system
  • Regular hybrid battery health checks
  • Checking the inverter & converter cooling system
  • Checking the brakes especially the brake calipers
  • Air conditioning system service

At N Seal Auto Garage, we offer these services.

We hope this piece clears some of the fears, misunderstandings, and misconceptions that have been put out there through the recent Tesla fuss. If not, feel free to engage us for further questions, clarifications, and consultancy on both electric and hybrid vehicles.