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Battery Swapping: The Future of Electric Motorcycles in Kenya

Electric motorcycles are quickly gaining popularity in Kenya, where environmental experts say they are 10-times less polluting than combustion-engine motorbikes.

Happy People of Kenya
Happy People of Kenya

To support this shift, battery-swapping stations have been popping up around the capital city of Nairobi. These stations allow electric motorcyclists to quickly exchange their low battery for a fully-charged one, saving them time and money.

Many sellers follow a model in which they retain ownership of the battery, the most expensive part of the bike, and sell the electric motorcycle for roughly the same price as a combustion-engine bike. This makes the electric motorcycle a more affordable and convenient option for the more than one million motorcyclists in Kenya, many of whom use their bikes for commercial purposes.

The Benefits of Electric Motorcycles in Kenya

In addition to being more environmentally friendly, electric motorcycles have several other benefits in Kenya. The country has a consistent, 95% renewable power supply, which is largely generated through hydroelectricity. This power supply, along with Kenya's widespread network and high electricity access, makes it easy to charge electric motorcycles. In fact, the country's power utility estimates it generates enough electricity to charge two million electric motorcycles each day.

This is good news for electric motorcycle start-ups like Ecobodaa, which plans to have 1,000 electric motorcycles on the road by the end of 2023. These bikes, which are designed to be sturdy enough to navigate rocky roads, are also cheaper to run than petrol-guzzling motorcycles. Kevin Macharia, a 28-year-old electric motorcyclist in Nairobi, says that with his electric bike, "when I swap a battery I get one battery at 300 shillings," compared to the 700-800 Kenyan shillings he spends on fuel each day with his normal bike.

The Future of Electric Mobility in East Africa

Kenya is not the only country in East Africa with the potential to support electric mobility. Uganda and Tanzania also have strong, renewables-heavy grids that could support electric vehicles. Nairobi-based electric motorcycle start-ups like Ecobodaa and ARC Ride are working to prove themselves in Kenya before eventually expanding to other countries in the region.

ARC Ride, for example, plans to put over 200 battery-swapping stations in Nairobi and expand to Dar es Salaam and Kampala. As more and more people turn to electric motorcycles as a convenient and environmentally friendly transportation option, it's clear that the electric motorcycle revolution is just beginning in East Africa.