We get a lot of comments from our readers saying the best way for African countries to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles on the continent is for them to develop and build their own EVs that are best suited for the local conditions. Developing vehicles from the ground up will allow the manufacturers to design and incorporate local knowledge and preferences into all aspects of the vehicle. This includes thorough considerations of the vehicle’s usage profile, the robustness of the frame, and the suspension to suit conditions of the local roads and load. A deep dive into the battery chemistry and battery management to ensure optimal performance and ensure the batteries will perform to match the expected life cycle is also critical.
Motorcycles are a big deal in Kenya. 210,103 motorcycles were registered in 2019, bringing the total number of registered motorcycles since 1968 to over 1.6 million. Motorcycles are mainly used as public transport vehicles. These motorcycle taxis are popularly known as boda bodas. The motorcycle taxi industry is a vital segment of Kenya’s economy, which explains why a lot of companies are now seriously looking into the opportunities in electrifying this industry. Opibus is one of the leaders in this space. Opibus has designed, developed, and is building electric motorcycles in Nairobi’s industrial area. Founded in 2017, Opibus initially focused on the safari and tourism industry, converting off-road safari and game drive vehicles to electric using its proprietary electric vehicle drivetrain. It is now scaling up production of its electric motorcycle that was fully designed and developed in-house in Kenya. You can have a look at the motorcycle and the assembly line in this video here.
Opibus’ newest version of its motorcycle to be released in late 2021 will have a range of 160 km divided over two separate interchangeable battery packs. The top speed will be 90km/h and it will have a similar starting price to the current internal combustion engine motorcycle on the market, but with half the running cost.
Opibus is passionate about developing the local industry. It is already incorporating as much as 35% locally sourced components in its motorcycle and is aiming for 65%, which will also go a long way in ensuring that replacement parts for its vehicles will be readily available on the local market as well as promote a strong ecosystem of downstream industries. Opibus has grown its team to over 70 people in Nairobi in just over 3 years. 40% of the Opibus Team are women employed across the organization’s structure, including in engineering, operations, and management positions. Opibus’ capacity building program wants to make sure that there is enough local knowledge and skills for the nation, and that the continent fully realizes the potential presented by the transition to electric mobility.
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. Kenya’s grid is already powered by a generation mix that is 93% renewable, thanks to significant contributions from geothermal, hydropower, wind, and some utility-scale solar plants. Accelerating the adoption of electric motorcycles, charging them using all that clean locally generated electricity will be one of the best ways to reduce CO2 emissions.
All images courtesy of Opibus
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