Motorcycle taxis are an indispensable mode of transport in East Africa. In Rwanda, more than half of all vehicles on the road at any moment are motorbike taxis. But these motorbikes are not cheap, the fuel they burn is expensive, and they produce serious amounts of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In the country, many drivers or motors spend over $11 daily on fuel and leasing costs, but take home just $1.60 each day.
Ampersand, an electric vehicle company, is currently carrying out electric motorcycle taxi (e-Moto) trials in Rwanda. Following 2.5 years of research and development, it is testing four different e-Moto models, specifically for motorcycle taxi drivers.
The Research and Solution
The initial e-Moto customer trials, with passengers, show an average 65 km range per charge and a top speed over 80 km/h. The electric motor gives the e-Moto greater torque and carrying power that outperforms the incumbent 125cc petrol bikes on speed, climbing and acceleration tests.
Josh Whale, Ampersand founder, says: “This may be the world’s first truly mass-market electric vehicle that’s cheaper and better than its petrol counterpart. The biggest opportunity for kicking-off a global mass-market electric vehicle revolution is not sedans for the middle classes of Europe or Japan, but inexpensive motorcycle taxis in Africa and other emerging markets.”
Motorcycle taxi drivers in Kigali cover around 188 km per day. Motorcycle taxis have become indispensable to mass mobility across the Africa continent. In East Africa alone, there are over three million people who earn their livelihood as drivers, and many millions more who rely on them to get around the cities and towns.
E-Motos are calculated to generate a 75% net reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions compared to petrol bikes. They are designed to out-compete the incumbent 125cc and 150cc petrol motorcycles on power, durability and performance. The motorbikes will cost less than petrol motorcycles to lease or buy and about half as much to power putting around $900 a year back into customers’ pockets from fuel savings alone. That means doubling or tripling many riders’ incomes.
Eng. Coletha U Ruhamya, director general of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority, says: “Rwanda welcomes Ampersand’s efforts to develop clean and low carbon motorcycles for our citizens. As electric motorcycles emit less CO2 than petrol motorcycles, they are the best solutions to air pollution currently affecting our environment.”
Hon. Eng. Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, the minister of state in charge of transport says in relation to the Ampersand e-Moto: “The use of electric vehicles is not a matter of if, but it is question of when and how.”
Final pricing is still confidential, but the e-Moto will cost less than the current petrol incumbents. Ampersand’s turnkey solution will feature motorcycles, a network of charging stations, financing, and after-sales service. Following design and system modifications, the e-Moto will be ready for commercial launch in Rwanda in late 2019.
Powering the e-Motos
Customers won’t need to buy vehicle batteries, or wait around while recharging batteries. Instead they will rent batteries from the established network of simple battery swap stations which will look and feel like normal petrol service stations. Expecting each battery to deliver around 60 km of range and will require swapping out less often than drivers commonly refuel now. This means customers are to spend less money and ride a better motorcycle for the environment.
Ampersand Partners on e-Motos
Factor[e] Ventures is the first institutional investor in Ampersand and is deploying its techno-economic modelling to refine the e-Moto offering and business model.
Seth Silverman, principal and director of Africa operations with Factor[e], says: “Factor[e] believes the time is ripe to extend the benefits of electric mobility to Africa. Ampersand will revolutionize the way Africans power transport by making mass-market electric vehicles cheaper and better than petrol. Two-wheel taxis are the right opportunity, Kigali is the right place, and with the decreasing cost of batteries, the timing couldn’t be better.”
The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) is also backing Ampersand through its Frontier Technology Livestreaming programme, which is designed to help DfID apply frontier technologies to development challenges.
Hanane Hafraoui, climate and energy economic advisor at DfID, concluded: “DfID is proud to be supporting early stages of development of a clean and cost-effective transport technology in Rwanda. With its rugged and affordable e-Moto, Ampersand can out-compete the incumbent petrol vehicles today and make a real impact on transportation and petrol consumption.”
As African Mobility Observatory - AMO, we believe such initiatives will cut down on the rates of Carbon emissions with the new mode of transport in the region. And we believe it is a step forward for Rwanda and East Africa as we await for the late 2019 expectations as programed.
Is Africa ready for electric mobility?
By Joseph Semuju
Community Manager - AMO
African Mobilities Observatory - AMO, MICHELIN
October 20, 2018