Namibian e-bike startup ebikes4africa has been on a steady growth path over the past 5 years. The business model rightly focused on customer segments characterized by a high utilization rate of vehicles. The startup targeted entrepreneurs in the food vending industry, pharmacies that regularly make delivery runs, and those entrepreneurs using bikes as taxis. They also found off takers in the wildlife protection industry and more prominently in the tourism industry where e-fatbike tours offer an eco-tourism experience.
The e-fatbikes are a perfect replacement for fossil fueled quadbikes that are typically used in these resorts. The e-fatbikes offer quieter, emission-free tours. Further, the e-bikes are charged using onsite photovoltaic solar systems — hence the name “SunCycles.” The SunCycles promote environmental awareness and assist proprietors in attracting modern day environmentally conscious travelers. The lodges also get to improve their ratings on the sustainability front on industry platforms. E-bikes4africa’s custom-built solar charging stations can charge up to 10 bikes at a time.
Charging the bikes using solar is great for sun-drenched Namibia. This lowers operational costs for operators as compared to using traditional fossil-fueled equivalent vehicles. The longer-range bikes come with the 624 Wh battery packs that can be comfortably charged using small PV systems in 4 to 6 hours.
With a range of up to 70 km per full charge, the e-bikes found off-takers in the wildlife conservancy areas, as the e-bikes allow the patrol taskforce to cover more ground as compared with conventional bicycles where the terrain can make this a very tiresome exercise. The e-bikes were also a welcome addition across several other segments, as they’ve made people’s lives a whole lot easier.
In rural areas, the e-bikes have found applications in ferrying essential goods such as water, ferrying people as part of rural taxi services, being utilized as ambulance services taking people to rural hospitals, and being used in general last-mile transportation services in areas not easily accessible by larger vehicles.
The SunCycles are designed and assembled in Namibia using industry-leading components like hub motors from Bafang and Kenda Tyres. Local manufacturing and after-sales support offered by ebikes4africa is really welcome in this part of the world, as it creates much-needed job opportunities. To accelerate adoption, ebikes4Africa lowered the barriers to entry into the world of e-bikes by offering SunCycles on a rental service to businesses and entrepreneurs, especially in the tourism sector.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus originating in Wuhan, Hubei, China, the pandemic has been so devastating that the whole world has essentially gone into a lockdown, putting the travel and tourism industry on hold for an indefinite period. The tourism market was one of ebike4africa’s mainstays, and this has been a big blow. This left ebikes4africa with a large fleet of bikes on its hands.
Social distancing, which is epitomized by contactless interactions, has resulted in a surge in demand for online shopping and delivery services as people avoid crowded places, however. So, ebikes4africa decided to unlock some value from what would have been “stranded assets” during this slowdown.
E-Bikes4Africa cofounder Marita Walther spoke with CleanTechnica on the shift to focus on the delivery services. “For the last five years, our enterprise has been mainly focused on providing access to e-mobility and solar recharge technology for rural communities and tourism enterprises in remote areas across Africa, and despite a very slow initial growth and local acceptance, we have been going from strength to strength over the past 12 months.
“Unfortunately, at the peak of our growth, the corona pandemic came seemingly out of nowhere and, as you can imagine, the tourism industry is completely on hold and there is no funding available for rural development. So, we had two simple choices: adapt or die. We chose to adapt, and because we already had a fleet of rental e-bikes available, we’ve decided to make the most of our current resources and implement these e-bikes as delivery vehicles in Windhoek.
“We see services like online shopping and the need for home deliveries picking up over the coming months and wanted to position ourselves as a role player in the industry – with carbon-free, planet-friendly mobility, designed in Namibia and made for Africa.”
For more, go here: http://www.ebikes4africa.org/
All images courtesy of E-Bikes4Africa