Banded battery swapping stations are being established Nairobi where electric motorcyclists can exchange their low battery for a fully-charged one. The emergence of these stations are early stages of an electric motorcyle revolution in Kenya where combustion-engine motorbikes have proved to be cheaper and faster but 10 times more polluting, according to environmental experts.
Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy, is hoping electric-powered motorcycles will catch on and place it ahead of its regional peers in the shift to zero-emission electric mobility. The battery exchange system will not only save time for Kenya’s more than one million motorcyclists but also save buyers money as many sellers retain ownership of the battery.
Most motorcyclists, known here as boda boda, use the bikes for commercial purposes of transporting people and luggage.
Ecobodaa, an electric bike company, has 50 bikes on a test-run and plans to have 1,000 by the end of 2023. It sells for about $1,500 (Ksh180,000) without the cost of the batter, a cool saving for many.
“It doesn’t make a lot of economic and business sense for them to acquire a battery which would almost double the cost of the bike,” said Mr Steve Juma, the co-founder of electric bike company Ecobodaa.
Indeed, Mr Juma says the electric motorcyle is cheaper to run than petrol-guzzling ones. On average boda boda riders say the petro-bikes consumer fuel worth Ksh800 per day compared to just Ksh300 for a battery swap.
ARC Ride, is another Nairobi-based electric motorcycle startup. Mr Jo Hurst-Croft, founder of the company, says ARC Ride is putting over 200 swapping stations in Nairobi and expanding to Dar es Salaam and Kampala.
Meanwhile, the shift to electric bikes is gaining speed. KCB Foundation and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in October announced a partnership to promote the use of electric motorbikes by boda boda riders in Kenya. This is an effort towards accelerating the transition to a low-carbon resilient economy and enable the transition of 25% of the total loan portfolio to green investments by 2025, as part of the KCB Net Zero ambition.
The programme involves a user acceptance test, the establishment of a lending scheme for boda boda riders, and providing training through 2Jiajiri, SACCOs, associations, motorcycle dealers, and various government departments to support the transition to clean energy.
“Through the e-Mobility programme with UNITAR, we seek to make it possible for players in the transport sector to acquire electric motorbikes at an affordable rate and earn a living,” says KCB CEO Paul Russo. “The boda boda riders will be playing a key role in supporting low carbon emissions in the environment.”
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