Keffa Mwendwa has been a motorcycle taxi (Boda Boda) rider in Kenya for 12 years. 6 month ago, he had the honour of becoming the first pilot for Ecobodaa’s electric motorcycle. Ecobodaa is one of several startups in Nairobi that are driving the e-mobility revolution in the most common mode of last-mile transport in East Africa.
The motorcycle taxi industry is huge in Kenya. There are 1.4 million motorcycle taxi riders in Kenya that enable 22 million rides per day. The average daily earnings for riders are around 700 shillings ($6.60). Collectively, Boda Boda operators collect Sh980 million ($9.2 million) every single day. Annual earnings are estimated at 357 billion shillings ($3.3 billion).
The motorcycle taxi industry in Kenya consumes $1.4 billion worth of fuel per year! A 2015 study by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC, now called the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, or 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. The average annual distance covered by motorcycles is around 17,800 km. With over 1.4 million motorcycles on the road and growing exponentially, it is critical that the transition to electric mobility is accelerated.
Ecobodaa CEO Kimosop Chepkoit says their pilot program shows that they have been able to save riders 36% on daily fuel spend, over 75 % on repairs, and 90% on servicing over a period of 3 months. These are significant savings for the Boda Boda riders. Lowering their operating costs will help riders improve their standard of living, and also help them build some savings.
Ecobodaa’s electric motorcycle uses LiNiMnCoO2 cells. “From our field tests, we have been able to achieve 75km on one charge with 120kg load, which is about the average weight of two people.” Ecobodaa has adopted the proven PayGo model adopted from the small home solar system to help catalyse adoption — riders only pay a 10% deposit, then pay the remainder through daily or weekly M-PESA (mobile money) remittances. This solves the problem facing many youths and women; which is access to capital. The payments are made for a period of 18 months, after which they get to own the Ecobodaa. There are an estimated 5 million motorcycles in East Africa.
Ecobodaa is also focusing on empowering people in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum. Battery swaps will be billed based on the percentage of power used by the rider. As a strategy to launch and serve this under-served area, they have also shortlisted, vetted, and trained women Boda Boda riders in Kibera who will then benefit from the initial commercial launch batch of Ecobodaas. Here is a video of Kimosop and Keffa speaking with Katherine Keango and showcasing the Ecobodaa electric motorcycle: