Kenya’s electric bike drive is helped by the ability to change batteries.
(Reuters) – NairobiIn the past few months, sturdy battery swap stations with bright logos have popped up around Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. These stations let electric motorcycle riders swap their low battery for a fully charged one.
It’s a sign that an electric motorcycle revolution is starting in Kenya, where combustion-engine motorbikes are a cheaper and faster way to get around than cars but 10 times more polluting, according to environmental experts.
East Africa’s biggest economy is betting that electric motorcycles, the fact that most of its power comes from renewable sources, and its status as a hub for technology and new businesses will help it lead the region’s move to zero-emission electric mobility.
The battery swapping system saves time, which is important for Kenya’s more than a million motorcyclists, since most of them use their bikes for work. It also saves money for buyers, since many sellers keep ownership of the battery, which is the most expensive part of the bike.
“It doesn’t make much business sense for them to buy a battery, which would almost double the price of the bike,” said Steve Juma, co-founder of the electric bike company Ecobodaa.
Ecobodaa has 50 test electric motorcycles on the road and plans to have 1,000 by the end of 2023. Each one costs about $1,500, which is about the same price as a bike with an internal combustion engine because the battery is not included in the price.
After the initial cost, it’s cheaper to run an electric motorcycle than a gas-powered one because it’s built to handle rough roads.
“With a regular bike, I spend about 700–800 Kenyan shillings ($5.70–$6.51) a day on gas, but with this bike, when I swap a battery, I only pay 300 shillings for one battery,” said Kevin Macharia, who is 28 and drives people and goods around Nairobi.
Ecobodaa is one of a number of electric motorcycle startups based in Nairobi that are trying to prove themselves in Kenya before expanding to the rest of East Africa.
Jo Hurst-Croft, the founder of another Nairobi-based electric motorcycle startup called ARC Ride, said that Kenya’s steady power supply, which is about 95% renewable and mostly comes from hydroelectricity, was a big reason for the growth of the sector.
The country’s power company says it makes enough electricity to charge two million electric motorcycles every day. The World Bank says that over 75% of the country has access to electricity, and that number is even higher in Nairobi.
Hurst-Croft said that Uganda and Tanzania also have strong grids that use a lot of renewable energy and could support electric cars.
Hurst-Croft said, “We’re putting more than 200 swapping stations in Nairobi, and we’re also going to Dar es Salaam and Kampala.”
($1 = 122.9000 Kenyan shillings)