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A lot of projects go ahead on the basis of some positive business cases, underpinned by the quest to solve real problems for the targeted customer segments. While these business cases help shape the path to the right solutions, it’s always great to see the real results on the ground when the rubber hits the road.

One of the biggest problems a lot of countries are facing on the African continent is escalating petrol and diesel import bills. Most countries on the continent import these fossil fuels using their hard-earned and scarce foreign currency. The transition to electric mobility presents an opportunity to reduce this dependence on imported fossil fuels via the increased use of locally generated electricity to power a good portion of local transport needs.

Kenya is one of the countries that has been battling a huge fossil fuel import bill. Earlier this year, Kenya signed some deals with firms from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to supply diesel, petrol, and jet fuel on credit for the next 6 months to ease mounting  pressure on the demand for foreign currency, as well as to try to stem the Kenya shillings slide vs. the US dollar and other major currencies. Kenya is one of the countries on the African continent where there is quite some significant activity in the electric mobility sector, and if scaled properly, the sector has the potential to displace a significant portion of petrol and diesel imports. Accelerating the transition to electromobility, powered by Kenya’s renewable energy-dominated electricity grid, will be a game change for the country.

Several companies are active across various e-mobility sectors, such as EV charging, local assembly of electric motorcycles, and the mass transit ecosystem being built around electric buses. After extensive pilot programs over the past couple of years, several firms are now ramping up their operations, and this has provided a good view of some tangible takeaways, such as how much of a real impact on the ground that electric vehicles can have on this quest for significant fossil fuel import reduction.

On the electric bus side, one of the leading firms is BasiGo. Having launched in February 2022 with just 2 electric buses, BasiGo has now reached the significant milestone of having its fleet (now composed of 19 buses) hit the 1 million kilometer cumulative distance traveled mark since launch. During that period, BasiGo’s buses carried over 1.2 million passengers, reduced CO2 emissions by 500 tonnes, and prevented 190,000 liters of diesel combustion! These 19 buses have shown that the potential for significant diesel abatement is huge. BasiGo is working to expand the fleet of electric buses to 1,000 in the next few years, which will get these figures to millions of liters of diesel saved per year. Imagine the impact if we have over 5,000 electric buses in Kenya in the next 10 years or so.

Image courtesy of Ampersand

Another significant part of Kenya’s public transport ecosystem is the motorcycle taxi industry. One of the leaders in the electric motorcycle sector in East Africa is Ampersand. Ampersand is adding 16 new battery swap stations in collaboration with Total Energies. This will bring the total number of swapping stations to 22 in a move to support the growing fleet of electric motorcycles. Ampersand now has a fleet of over 1,000 electric motorcycles on the road in East Africa, with close to 300 of them being in Kenya.

Image courtesy of Ampersand

This fleet has also started to show the huge potential for reducing reliance on imported petrol in the motorcycle sector. Last week, Ampersand’s fleet in Kenya covered 102,620 kilometers, powered by 2,380 battery swaps. These electric motorcycles helped avoid the use of about 2,000 liters of petrol. 2,000 liters saved in just a week’s work is pretty cool! There are about 2 million internal combustion engine motorcycles registered in Kenya. If we can get these savings from about 300 bikes in just a week, imagine how much would be saved when we have hundreds of thousands of electric motorcycles in Kenya.

Electric bus image courtesy of BasiGo, electric motorcycle and swap station images courtesy of Ampersand

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