Sudan’s electric rickshaws cut costs and help the environment


By AGENCY

Workers assembling electric tuk-tuks at al-Shehab factory in the Sudanese capital’s northern district of Khartoum-Bahri, recently. Photos: AFP

Sudanese entrepreneur Mohamed Samir watches proudly as workers assemble garishly coloured rickshaws, unique in the North African nation because they run on electricity in a bid to tackle soaring costs.

In Sudan, three-wheeler vehicles – tuk-tuk rickshaws for passengers, and motorbike tricycles with a trailer attached for carrying goods – have long been a popular and affordable transport. Tens of thousands ply the streets of the capital Khartoum alone.

But with Sudan gripped by a dire economic crisis made worse by political unrest following a military coup last October, the cost of running petrol-oil engines has soared.

“People who use the fuel-run rickshaws are in pain, and they know the value of what we are offering,” 44-year-old engineer Samir said at the factory in North Khartoum.

“We want to offer solutions.”

‘Everything run by fuel will be replaced with electricity, sooner or later,’ says Mohamed Samir, owner of al-Shehab factory.‘Everything run by fuel will be replaced with electricity, sooner or later,’ says Mohamed Samir, owner of al-Shehab factory.

There is a critical environmental impact too.

Smoky petrol-powered vehicles, aside from fuelling climate change, cause “significant noise and air pollution”, the United Nations Environment Programme warned in a report from 2020.

“Emissions from the three-wheelers reduce visibility, cause damage to vegetation and lead to respiratory illnesses in people,” it added.

Samir says the new electric vehicles check three boxes of the UN’s sustainable development goals: the fight against poverty, protection of health, and protection of the environment.

“It also makes much less noise,” he added.

Daily income doubled

Samir faced years of grinding challenges to get his factory up and running, but once he opened, business has been brisk, selling over 100 goods tricycles and 12 passenger rickshaws since last year.

Fuel costs have more than doubled since the coup. On top of that, repeated fuel shortages have left drivers queueing up for hours outside filling stations to top up their tanks.

Drivers complain of earning less than they spend.

That was the key reason fruit seller Bakry Mohamed sold his old petrol-powered tuk-tuk and bought an electric tricycle last year.

“It used to cost more than it brought in,” said Bakry, who uses his vehicle to carry a stall of fruits through the streets. “Plus, I had to worry about where to find fuel, and where to change the engine oil.”

A fruit seller’s electric tuk-tuk is parked outside al-Noor Islamic Complex in the Sudanese capital’s northern district of Khartoum-Bahri, recently.A fruit seller’s electric tuk-tuk is parked outside al-Noor Islamic Complex in the Sudanese capital’s northern district of Khartoum-Bahri, recently.

Bakry speaks proudly of his new electric tricycle.

“It has been extremely cost efficient,” Bakry said. “Now, there are no more fuel queues. I charge it once, and it keeps running the entire week. My daily income doubled.”

Some drivers struggle when they first make the switch, but Samir said there have been no major complaints and the electric batteries require less maintenance than fuel-run engines.

“It’s new, and they are not used to electric-run vehicles,” he said.

Sunshine power

The three-wheelers take about eight hours to be fully charged, with a tuk-tuk tricycle able to cover 80 to100km, while a rickshaw’s range is even further, between 100 and 120km.

But amid the economic crisis, Sudan’s electricity supplies have suffered too, with frequent power cuts.

In January, the government hiked electricity prices, with households seeing an increase of about 500% in the bills.

Yet Samir said the electric rickshaws are still more efficient and far cheaper to run than alternatives.

“The cost of charging the battery remains less than that of the fuel,” Samir said, with a single electric charge costing less than half a litre of fuel.

Others, looking skywards to Sudan’s year-round sunshine, have freed themselves from dependency on the power grid too.

Amjad Hamdan Hameidan, who bought several electric-powered rickshaws, powers his three-wheeler on the go.

“I use flexible solar panels,” Amjad said. “We place them on top of the rickshaw while driving, and it keeps the batteries charged.”

A worker assembling a solar panel on an electric tuk-tuk at al-Shehab factory. A worker assembling a solar panel on an electric tuk-tuk at al-Shehab factory.

Samir argues his factory is helping Sudan keep pace in a fast-developing world.

“Everything run by fuel will be replaced with electricity sooner or later,” Samir said. “We have the opportunity now to keep up with the rest of the world.” – AFP/Menna Zaki

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 46
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
Join our Telegram channel to get our Evening Alerts and breaking news highlights
   

Next In Living

Beer giant to trial completely recyclable fibre beer bottle across Europe
Dog show 101: What's what at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show
Toblerone chocolate to lose 'Switzerland' label and be made outside Swiss homeland
Goodbye Expo, hello 'Expo City': Dubai to reopen world fair site
War-stricken pets await new life at Kyiv shelter
Do zoos do enough for conservation to justify captive breeding?
Making your garden bee-friendly
Singapore brewery makes beer from recycled wastewater... and urine
8 ways you can give back to your favourite animal charity
In a multigenerational home, design choices can be emotional

Others Also Read