By Mark Kawalya
The electric motorcycle industry in Kenya is taking strides. Towards the second half of last year, the country registered the setting up of a series of well-branded battery exchange stations in and around Nairobi, the country’s capital. These provide a critical re-energizing framework for the growing population of electric motorcyclists, enabling riders to get freshly charged batteries in exchange for depleted ones.
According to analysts, these signs bear the hallmarks of an electric motorcycle revolution in a country where mobility is dominated by both vehicle and motorcycle combustion engines that wreak havoc on the environment.
The e-bikes are seen as a magic bullet for some of the transportation issues plaguing East Africa’s largest economy, such as increasing pollution levels and high fuel costs. The drive will position Kenya as the nucleus for the region’s shift to zero-emission electric mobility.
The battery exchange system is essential for Kenya’s one million strong motorcyclists who rely on their bikes for sustenance. The model also saves them money as the riders retain ownership of the bike’s battery, which is the most expensive component on the motorcycle.
Ecoboda, one of the players in the e-bike industry, sells its bikes for about $1,500, which is approximately the same as what a standard combustion engine bike costs. The firm is a locally founded startup that is laying the groundwork by fully setting up in Kenya before expanding into other markets.
“With the normal bike, I will use fuel worth approximately 700-800 Kenyan shillings ($5.70-$6.51) each day, but with this bike, when I swap a battery, I get one battery for 300 shillings,” Kevin Macharia, a 28-year-old rider who transports goods and passengers around Nairobi, says.
According to Jo Hurst, founder of ARC Ride, another e-motorcycle startup, Kenya enjoys a consistent power supply, 95% of which takes the form of hydroelectricity, and has been a major catalyst for the green energy mobility industry.
Power utility estimates indicate that the country has the capacity to charge two million electric motorcycles a day, with electricity access reaching more than 75% of the population.