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Affordable Electric Micro-Mobility Solutions Are Empowering Low Income Communities In Kenya

Affordable electric micro-mobility solutions can make a huge difference. That is what Linccell Technology Kenya wants to do in Kenya. It wants to be the “inclusive” eMobility company building robust electric wheelchairs, bicycles, and scooters that are suitable for local conditions and built to handle the local roads, which are not always as good as the main roads.

We just love to see more electric mobility solutions that are focused on addressing some real life problems and are capable of transforming people’s lives where it matters most. This will obviously mean more affordable mobility solutions tailored to meet people’s needs that consider the “right sizing” approach making sure the solutions are the best fit for their intended purpose.

In many communities, most people’s daily commutes often average just under 10 kilometers. In certain areas, people’s needs could be met with some form of transportation that is capable of a little over 20 kilometers (km) of range. In many large informal or high density low income neighborhoods in a lot of African countries, commuters and traders often face challenges getting about connecting to the main public transport routes that serve their areas. 

These main roads that are served by the public transport service operators such as the minibus taxis — or matatus, as they are called in Kenya — are often a bit far from where the people actually stay, or the people simply can’t afford the fare and have to walk several kilometers to get to where they need to go.  A lot of startups are also scaling up their services in these areas, enabling farmers and traders to send their goods to the market in an efficient way, such as Twiga Foods.

In such an environment, affordable electric micro-mobility solutions can make a huge difference. That is what Linccell Technology Kenya wants to do in Kenya. It wants to be the “inclusive” eMobility company building robust electric wheelchairs, bicycles, and scooters that are suitable for local conditions and built to handle the local roads, which are not always as good as the main roads.

Linccell wants to do all this and still ensure it will be able to offer its products at an affordable price. To achieve this, the company’s mobility products are built from recycled and upcycled materials. Up to 90% of the materials used are sourced locally, with only the electric motors imported from China.

This is another great example of how electromobility can boost the circular economy. Linccell assembles its battery packs using the standard 18650 cells recovered from old laptops, which allows them to lower the costs of their products significantly to levels that are more affordable for their target market.

Here is a video interview of Linccell Founder Lincoln Wamae talking about the company’s products. Other players in the East African Region, such as Bodawerk, are also using cells from old laptops to make battery packs for larger motorcycles. To make some of its wheelchairs, Linccell repurposes old office chairs, and given that millions of tonnes of office furniture end up in landfills, there won’t be a shortage of raw materials. 

The Kenya State of the Cities report “shows that majority of these people miss out on opportunities, due to the high cost of transportation, and poor roads.” 42% of commuters in Nairobi walk to where they need to go as they can’t afford the cost of matatus. Affordable electric micro-mobility solutions could really improve their quality of life. 39% of CO2 emissions in Kenya are from the transport sector.

Women in Wedza, Zimbabwe walking to collect firewood. Image courtesy of Mobility For Africa

Kenya has really excelled in increasing the share of renewable electricity in its electricity generation mix. A whopping 93% of electricity generation in Kenya is from renewable energy sources. This mix includes significant contributions from wind farms, geothermal power plants, hydropower, and some utility-scale solar. In meeting its renewable energy generation targets, Kenya has found itself in an interesting position where there is excess capacity at times, especially at night when demand drops significantly.

There won’t be a shortage of electricity to charge these micro-mobility solutions, and these solutions will enable more people to access mobility solutions without adding to the many ICE options that contribute to the current levels of CO2 emissions. These affordable mobility solutions could also be financed via the existing pay-as-you-go platforms, lowering the barriers to adoption. The PAYGO model has been widely adopted in the off-grid solar space in East Africa.

: E-Bikes from E-Bikes4Africa. Images Courtesy of E-Bikes4Africa

E-bike from E-Bikes4Africa. Image courtesy of E-Bikes4Africa

It’s good to see more and more local firms producing electric mobility products across Africa. This will create much-needed job opportunities and also ensure that the products being rolled out meet the specific needs of the intended beneficiaries. Bodawerk and Opibus in Uganda and Kenya respectively are converting old motorcycles to electric. In Namibia, SunCycles is manufacturing electric bicycles, and Mobility for Africa is assembling electric 3-wheelers in Zimbabwe for its rural projects.

Enabling farmers and traders to send their goods to the market in an efficient way such as (Twiga Foods, YouTube)

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.

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