Battery swapping spurs Kenya’s electric motorbike drive

Published December 27, 2022
NAIROBI: A worker assembles an electric motorcycle at the ARC Ride’s warehouse.—Reuters
NAIROBI: A worker assembles an electric motorcycle at the ARC Ride’s warehouse.—Reuters

NAIROBI: Over recent months, sets of sturdy, brightly-branded battery swapping stations have cropped up around Kenya’s capital Nairobi, allowing electric motorcyclists to exchange their low battery for a fully-charged one.

It is a sign of an electric motorcyle revolution starting to unfold in Kenya where combustion-engine motorbikes are a cheaper and quicker way to get around than cars but environmental experts say are 10 times more polluting.

East Africa’s biggest economy is betting on electric-powered motorcycles, its renewables-heavy power supply and position as a technology and start-up hub to lead the region’s shift to zero-emission electric mobility.

The battery swapping system not only saves time — essential for Kenya’s more than one million motorcyclists, most of whom use the bikes commercially — but also saves buyers money as many sellers follow a model in which 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...which would almost double the cost of the bike,” said Steve Juma, the co-founder of electric bike company Ecobodaa.

Ecobodaa has 50 test electric motorcyles on the road now and plans to have 1,000 by the end of 2023 which it sells for about $1,500 each — roughly the same price as combustion-engine bikes thanks to the exclusion of the battery from the cost.

After the initial purchase, the electric motorcyle — designed to be sturdy enough to traverse rocky roads — is cheaper to run than petrol-guzzling ones.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2022

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