There Are Now Visibly More Electric Motorcycles In Nairobi, Kenya

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I have been following the electric motorcycle space in Kenya for over 6 years now. In that time, several startups have joined the sector, working to help transition this prominent sector to electric. Hundreds of thousands of internal combustion engine motorcycles are sold each year in Kenya. These continue to add enormous amounts of emissions to the contribution from the transport sector.

A 2015 study by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC — now called The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, EPRA), on the “Global Fuel Economy Initiative Study in Kenya (GFEI)” cites that emissions from motorcycles of less than 150 cc are about 46.5 g/km of CO2. Madara Ogot et al., conducted a survey across the major cities found that the average annual distance covered by the motorcycles is around 17,800 km.  If we keep adding hundreds of thousands of ICE motorcycle covering millions of kilometers each year, the air quality will keep deteriorating, bringing with it a host of unwanted issues such as increasing respiratory illnesses.

All these electric motorcycle startups have been investing heavily in research and development, conducting several pilot programs, and then releasing some improved versions of their motorcycles with each iteration. I have been privileged to have visited their assembly plants and offices to get a unique view of this sector. That means I get to see some of these bikes before they hit the roads.

It has been an exciting journey having a front row seat, but it is about to get even better! Why do I say this? Well, in all this time when the firms were piloting several versions of their motorcycles, it was not easy to spot their electric motorcycles on the streets of Nairobi. That is because the number of electric motorcycles on the roads was quite small and a lot of the pilots were targeted for specific use cases, for example on a B2B basis for last mile deliveries and other applications.

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The largest addressable market for motorcycles in Kenya is, of course, the motorcycle taxi industry, known as boda bodas. Several firms also introduced their electric motorcycles with select partners in this boda boda space. However, the game has visibly changed over the past few months. A lot more electric motorcycles have been unleashed on to the streets of Nairobi. These days you do not even need to go around looking for them. They are literally everywhere you go, which is extremely exciting.

Electric motorcycles are even on the Uber app, and usually when you try to hail one, one is normally a minute or two away, which is really cool. I really wanted to test this out, so for a whole week I just used the Uber app to hail electric motorcycles, and they were always readily available. The other cool thing I noticed was several electric motorcycle brands are now on the Uber service which is great. That also meant that I got to experience different electric monocycles during that week.

The are also many other electric motorcycle brands on the streets of Nairobi that have been deployed in standard boda boda applications using the usual channels, which is great to see. It has taken awhile to get to this point, but it’s really great to see that there are a whole lot more electric motorcycles now on the road in Nairobi. There is also a growing battery swap network ecosystem to power all these operations.

Images from Remeredzai in various locations around Nairobi, Kenya.

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