Image courtesy of Google photos.

It definitely scares us today to see Mother Nature trying to reclaim what belongs to her. Climate change has been a discussion for over three decades after almost a century of accumulating science. Three decades later, we have not fixed it yet. In Kenya, we are now experiencing the waters raising in the lakes along the great Rift Valley. This has been associated with the effects of climate change. Businesses, homes, roads and grazing land for both domestic and wild animals have been submerged. If there was time for the world to take action and not delay fixing this catastrophe, it is now.

Photo courtesy of Manuela from her recent adventure to Turkana. Read about it here.

Recently we have seen more countries phasing out the internal combustion engines as a step towards reversing the climate change. There are just too many vehicles on our roads today. Unfortunately, in most parts of the world, coal and oil remains cheap and will continue to be in use as long as it offers the cost convenience. Norway is likely to be the first country phasing out the internal combustion engines ending the sale of new cars that use fossil fuels in just five years from today (2025). Other countries include The Netherlands by 2030, France, Denmark and the UK by 2040. More echos from California in the US for a ban on gasoline and diesel vehicle sales by 2040. This list will only grow longer with time.

Though Kenya has not indicated whether it will ban the internal combustion engines, we have seen great strides towards the same. Kenya Bureau of Standards recently licensed two companies to do conversion of tourism vans and buses into hybrid vehicles that will use electric engines. The standard for application of liquefied petroleum (LPG) and compressed natural gases as engine fuels for internal combustion engines is also now in force and investors are at liberty to venture into this line of business.

The entry of the electric motorcycles into Kenyan roads.

Investors eyeing the boda boda sub-sector.

KEBS has also released standards for electric motorcycles which has attracted several investors. It is estimated that Boda Boda Association of Kenya (BAK) alone, has about 1.2 members. This is excluding the private riders numbers. The motorcycles on our roads, all powered by internal combustion engines could be well over 1.3 million. Three companies so far are ready to launch their electric motorcycles come 2021, all of them eyeing the boda boda sub-sector.

Back in 2019, the UN launched Kenya’s first electric mobility pilots during the Fourth UN Environmental Assembly and set the ball rolling for Africa’s shift to electric mobility. Developed together with the Energy Regulatory Commission now EPRA (Energy & Petroleum Regulatory Authority), the two pilots in the City of Kisumu and with Kenya Power & Lighting Company Limited was to see the deployment of a total of 50 electric motorcycles in the country. These motorcycles were to be donated by TAILG, a Chinese company that had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UN Environment to support UN Environment’s electric mobility work. 

The Kenyan start up company, Ecobodaa has already developed a prototype which has been tested by a Boda Boda rider for 6 months. Their initial plans were to launch the motorcycle this year (2020) but their plans were affected by the pandemic and their new launch date is January 2021. Their motorcycles which will be available to riders on a “lease-to-own credit model” will be able to reach a maximum speed of 60km per hour and produce zero emissions. The bikes will be fitted with a removable 72v Lithium battery which will have a range of 60 – 75km per hour. Once the bike’s battery power has been depleted, the drivers will be able to swap it out for a fully charged battery at an Ecobadaa battery swap station.

Image of an Ecobodaa electric bike courtesy of Ecobodaa images online.

Another company set to launch their electric motorcycles is Fika Mobility. Seeing this huge addressable market, Fika Mobility has spent over 18 months studying the market to see how best to disrupt the motorcycle ecosystem in Kenya. Fika plans to sell its electric motorcycle at around $1,200. The current version Fika has been piloting in Kenya and has a 2.5 kWh lithium-ion battery and a range of around 100 km. The hub motor has a peak power of 1,500 W. The company is about to expand the pilot with an updated version of the Fika motorcycle based on the learnings from the initial pilot. The next iteration will come with a leaner 1.2 kWh battery pack, and riders will then pay a deposit for the 1.2 kWh battery pack. Fika’s batteries will be GPS-linked to enable real-time tracking and monitoring. Fika’s service will have a bouquet of subscription plans for riders to choose their monthly payment packages for the swaps. This pricing lowers the barriers to entry and could be a game changer. The sticker price puts the Fika motorbikes in the same range as the extremely popular 150 CC Bajaj Boxer, which retails for around $1,118. 

Image of Fika electric motorcycle courtesy of Google photos.

Anza Energy is also set to launch their turnkey mobility to Africa in January 2021 which includes electric motorcycles, electric buses and electric Sedans.

Are we ready for the electric mobility?

Infrastructure preparedness and cost

Electric vehicles have an initial sticker price that is much higher than gasoline/diesel equivalents. Though companies such as Fika has indicated a competitive pricing, we can only wait to see what pricing the other companies will announce.

However when it comes to maintenance of the electric mobility the cost is significantly low compared to the internal combustion engines. Cost of spare parts is however a concern as breakable parts such as lights, indicators and mirrors may require multiple replacements. Electricity is also not cheap in Kenya either making the cost of running the e-motorcycles a big debate.

Of great concern is the infrastructure for charging the electric vehicles in Kenya. From the many companies eyeing the market, the cities seem to be their initial locations of interests leaving out the country side market which has less access to electricity. According to the Traffic Index 2019, Nairobi is ranked the worst city in Africa and fourth in the world on overall inefficiencies in its traffic system. Boda Boda sector is even worse when it comes to these inefficiencies. Their passengers collection points known as “stage” are just open spaces by the road sides. Our residential facilities may require quite some adjustments to accommodate charging of electric vehicles from home as this is not incorporated in the plans. For example we have no garages but open shared parking space that is not ideal for electricity charging points. Our urban centres planning does not incorporate motorcycles and the authorities/government have refused to integrate the motorcycles in the city and town planning, we have no designated parking lots for motorcycles, in fact motorcycles are handled as illegal vehicles in our cities with riders being arrested and motorcycles being impounded daily. These are just some of the challenges currently there and envisioned. Some of the companies have indicated that they will have battery swap stations. The question is, how many will there be to serve the Boda Bodas community efficiently given the mileage range for the electric motorcycle.

Definitely 2021 looks exciting already!!! What are your thoughts on the introduction of the electric motorcycles in Kenya? Let us know in the comments section.

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