Kenya leads a sustainable transport program
Often known for its chaotic and traffic jammed streets, downtown Nairobi is the scene of several pioneering experiments in electrified public transport. From February, Nairobi-based electric vehicle (EV) and finance company BasiGo will test two electric buses with public transport providers, offering a model of how Kenya can move towards an electrified transport future. and sustainable.
The e-mobility startup, which launched in November last year, plans to bring over 1,000 25- and 36-seater electric buses to Kenya for purchase by bus operators over the course of of the next five years.
The buses are sourced from BYD Auto, the world’s largest electric bus manufacturer, and although the pilot buses were imported fully built, the end goal is for the BasiGo buses to be assembled locally.
“We have partnered with two different public service vehicle operators in Nairobi for our pilot program,” says Jit Bhattacharya, CEO and co-founder of BasiGo.
“Following our pilot project, we will offer electric buses to all owners, credit unions and companies currently operating city buses in Kenya. Until now, diesel buses were the only technological option for bus operators in Nairobi. We want to help all PSV operators realize the economic and reliability benefits of electric buses. »
BasiGo has so far raised approximately $1 million in pre-seed funding, which it will deploy to prove the viability of the electric bus model.
“Along with the launch of our pilot, we will also be taking bookings for our first electric bus sales exclusively for Nairobi operators. These buses will be delivered to customers by the end of the year,” adds Bhattacharya.
According to BasiGo, bus owners can purchase an electric bus for the same upfront cost as an equivalent-sized diesel bus. They also intend to improve affordability through a financing model that allows carriers to pay for battery and charging separately through a pay-as-you-go financing arrangement.
“Bus owners will then pay BasiGo a ‘pay-as-you-drive’ subscription based on the kilometers traveled each day. This subscription covers all charging and maintenance at the BasiGo depots as well as the rental of the e-bus battery,” Bhattacharya explains.
The buses are designed to travel 250 km on a single charge to allow them to run all day without having to recharge. Operators will return the electric bus to a charging depot owned and operated by BasiGo each night, where they will also receive servicing.
The company says it chose Kenya as its base because the country is a global leader in green energy, with more than 90% of all electricity generated in the country coming from renewable sources such as hydropower, geothermal, solar and wind. The Kenya Power and Lighting Company currently has a surplus of clean, renewable energy on the power grid, particularly at night, making Nairobi an ideal location for the pilot project.
Fight against air pollution
Private buses and minibuses known as matatus, which accounts for around 40% of all trips in Nairobi, remains one of the main modes of transport in Kenya and many African cities.
But their diesel engines are a major source of urban air pollution, listed by the World Health Organization as one of the greatest environmental threats to human health, and are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse contributing to climate change.
In Kenya, electric buses could produce 95% less CO2 given that most of the country’s electricity comes from renewable sources such as hydropower and geothermal. The price of using a vehicle, currently subject to the vagaries of the fuel market, could become more predictable.
“For years, diesel-powered buses have been the only viable option for bus operators in Kenya. We are excited to offer public transport operators a new option: state-of-the-art electric buses that are more affordable, more reliable and reduce bus operators’ exposure to the rising cost of diesel fuel,” says Bhattacharya.
Once established in Nairobi, BasiGo intends to use the data and experience gained in Nairobi to develop and introduce electric buses in other East African cities.
An expanding market
BasiGo is not the first supplier of electric vehicles on the market. Opibus, a Swedish-Kenyan manufacturer of electric vehicles, EkoRent Africa, a Finnish-Kenyan company that operates an all-electric taxi service, Ecotrify, an electric mobility infrastructure provider and installer, and Kiri EV, an electric bicycle producer , present all parallel schemes for electrical transport.
In December 2021, after successfully completing a pilot program, Opibus partnered with Uber to deploy 3,000 electric motorcycles for African drivers by 2022. Uber’s presence in 16 African cities will allow Opibus to accelerate the mass adoption of electric vehicles across the continent, according to the partners.
“The objective of the collaboration with Opibus is to simplify the deployment of electric motorcycles across Africa. This follows an agreement between the two parties that Opibus will supply 3,000 electric motorcycles in 2022 to meet Uber’s demand,” the company announced in December.
According to Opibus, Kenya’s motorcycle industry is the largest employer, employing over 1.2 million young Kenyans. There are more than 1.6 million motorcycles registered in the country, with an average of 16,500 units imported per month.
Albin Wilson, director of strategy and marketing for Opibus, explains that Opibus deployed 150 motorcycles on a pilot basis to test the technology and validate the project.
“The motorcycles are assembled in Nairobi and are designed by local engineers for the African market,” he says. Opibus is also working on introducing electric buses and Wilson says the company will launch 10 buses for a commercial pilot this year, after which they will consider a wider rollout by 2023.
The electric vehicle manufacturer has installed 10 AC chargers and will install more soon. The company managed to raise $7.5 million which will be used to boost the production of motorcycles and buses.
Meanwhile, EkoRent launched NopeaRide in 2018 with the aim of becoming “the continent’s first all-electric taxi service”. It operates a growing fleet of electric vehicles and charging stations in Nairobi and plans to increase its NopeaRide fleet to up to 100 electric vehicles.
In 2021, the company received €200,000 from EEP Africa, an Austrian-backed financing facility to develop solar-powered charging stations in Nairobi for the taxi industry.