- Electric motorcycle startups are making inroads in Kenya
- Say that battery replacement saves drivers time and money
- Planning to expand the model to Tanzania, Uganda
NAIROBI, Dec 26 (Reuters) – In recent months, sets of sturdy, brightly branded battery swap stations have popped up around Kenya’s capital Nairobi, allowing electric motorcyclists to swap out their low battery for a fully charged one.
It’s a sign of an electric motorcycle revolution starting to unfold in Kenya, where combustion-engined motorcycles are a cheaper and faster way to get around than cars, but environmental experts say they are 10 times more polluting.
East Africa’s largest economy is betting on electric motorcycles, its renewable power supply and position as a technology and startup hub to lead the region’s transition to zero-emission electric mobility.
The battery exchange system not only saves time – vital for Kenya’s more than one million motorcyclists, most of whom use their bikes commercially – but also saves buyers money as many sellers follow a model where they retain ownership of the battery, the bike’s most expensive part.
“It doesn’t make a lot of economic and business sense for them to acquire a battery … that will almost double the price of the bike,” said Steve Juma, co-founder of electric bike company Ecobodaa.
Ecobodaa has 50 electric test motorcycles on the road now and plans to have 1,000 by the end of 2023, which it sells for around $1,500 each — about the same price as combustion motorcycles thanks to the exclusion of the battery from the cost.
After the initial purchase, the electric motorcycle – designed to be sturdy enough to traverse rocky roads – is cheaper to run than gas-guzzling ones.
“With the normal bike, I will use fuel worth about 700-800 Kenyan shillings ($5.70-$6.51) every day, but with this bike, when I change the battery I get one battery for 300 shillings,” said Kevin Macharia, 28, which transports goods and passengers around Nairobi.
Ecobodaa is just one of several Nairobi-based electric motorcycle startups working to prove themselves in Kenya before eventually expanding into East Africa.
Kenya’s consistent electricity supply, which is about 95% renewable led by hydropower and has a widespread network, was a key support for the growth of the sector, said Jo Hurst-Croft, founder of ARC Ride, another Nairobi-based electric motorcycle startup.
The country’s power plant estimates it generates enough to charge two million electric motorcycles a day: electricity access in the country is over 75%, according to the World Bank, and even higher in Nairobi.
Uganda and Tanzania also have robust and renewable-heavy grids that can support electric mobility, Hurst-Croft said.
“We are putting over 200 exchange stations in Nairobi and expanding to Dar es Salaam and Kampala,” Hurst-Croft said.
($1 = 122.9000 Kenyan shillings)
Reporting by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise
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