As its cities continue to grow, Egypt is choking under heavily polluted skies. According to a recent report published by the World Health Organization (WHO), 40,000 people died from pollution across the country in 2017. And while the Arab country’s efforts to reduce pollution have been sparse, the first electric buses (link in Arabic) are planned to hit Egypt’s streets next month.

Last January, as the world rang in the New Year, Chinese company BYD announced the signing of an agreement with the Egyptian Passengers Transportation Authority to provide Egypt’s second city, Alexandria, with 15 electric buses to be used for public transportation.

electric buses

via Youm7

The first three buses are scheduled to get rolling by next month to test their efficiency and overall performance in Egypt for a period of three months until the remaining 12 buses are delivered.

This is the first time electric buses will be used for public transport in Egypt and across the Middle East, according to Egyptian news agency Masrawy.

There are three planned routes for the electric buses in Alexandria: along the main corniche or coastline, Abu Qir Street, and El Mahmoudeyya Axis, all of which are among the city’s most frequented routes.

Currently, Egypt’s public buses are gas and diesel powered, contributing to the country’s pollution crisis. Gas-powered buses cost EGP 6.36 ($0.36) per kilometer to run, whereas electric powered buses will cost half of that per kilometer.

The electric buses can carry (link in Arabic) up to 90 passengers and are equipped with air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and mobile chairs to accommodate the city’s differently abled. The buses cost nearly as much as their gas and diesel-powered counterparts, which is EGP 4 million ($223,370).

The inside of the buses. (via Youm7)

Powered by a 300 kilowatt motor, which is equivalent to approximately 430 horsepower, the electric buses can travel up to 250 kilometers (150 miles) without air conditioning and 210 kilometers (130 miles) while using air conditioning on just a three to four hour charge.

For Egypt, the use of electric buses in public transport is crucial to aid the country in cutting down on carbon emissions and, in turn, addressing the toxicity of its air. The move also comes at a time when the Egyptian government has been working around the clock to improve its image to boost tourism in the country.

The deal with BYD is one of many initiatives Egypt has spearheaded in order to encourage Egyptians to think differently about the environment and their contribution to its pollution. In early February, the first electric vehicle (EV) charging station opened in Cairo, which preempts plans for introducing EVs into the Egyptian market. Later that same month, the first of 32 solar power plants in Aswan began operation.