Africa hosts an estimated 27 million motorbikes (motos), out of which 80% is estimated to be used for commercial taxi service. All these motos have the potential to soon be riding on electricity! The motorcycle sector has been getting attention when it comes to electrification due to the large addressable market. Electric motorcycles are also closer to price parity than electric cars are on the continent. These is also an existing robust distribution and financing infrastructure for the 2-wheeler market on the continent. In some places, riders can apply for a motorcycle loan and ride away in the motorcycle in under 2 hours.
One of the leaders in Africa’s electric motorcycle industry is Rwanda Electric Motors (REM). REM has been specializing in this field since 2019 in Rwanda and has become one of the largest e-mobility companies in the continent. In a recent update, the company announced that it is close to celebrating its 50,000,000th km driven with 100% electric bikes in 2023. This distance is equivalent to traveling around the Earth’s equator more than 1,200 times or traveling to the Moon and back over 200 times. With close to 300 bikes in operation since its inception, REM has developed a unique model allowing moto taxi riders to no longer use gasoline, which in turns helps them generate significant fuel savings while also reducing carbon emissions. These electric motorcycles are also simpler and cheaper to maintain and service, unlocking more savings and efficiencies for players in the industry.
REM’s flagship product, the EMB2000, was developed with considerable input from the local moto taxi community and is capable of traveling up to 100 km on its two-battery design before requiring a 3-minute swap at an exchange station. REM is also the only authorized vendor to safely convert and retrofit existing petrol bikes on the road to full electric and compatible with its convenient battery swap network.
REM is committed to providing a greener, more sustainable form of transportation for Africa and beyond. The company believes that electric vehicles are the future of transportation and is working hard to make that dream a reality. Rwanda has put in place an ambitious green agenda that would convert all its moto taxis from petrol-based internal combustion engines to electric within the next few years. According to the Rwanda Federation of Taxi-Moto (RFTM), there are about 46,000 moto-taxi riders registered in the country, with 26,000 of them operating in Kigali.
The e-mobility industry in Africa is set for a massive boom in the coming years as a variety of new solutions and new companies are hitting the market. Next to electric 2-wheelers, other vehicles such as 3-wheelers, electric buses, electric bikes, and of course electric cars are now being rolled out and tested across the entire continent. After several years of pilot programs in the 2-wheeler and 3-wheeler segments (especially in East and West Africa), several companies are now ramping up their operations in this space and this should see the numbers of electric vehicles grow exponentially.
Demand for these vehicles is very high because of their very attractive unit economics. This has resulted in several firms in the industry reporting significant backlogs in orders and reservations for their vehicles. But rolling out large numbers of such vehicles requires significant funding for the vehicles themselves, and also for the power infrastructure that will be used to charge the batteries. Although several firms on the continent have recently closed some funding rounds, the fundraising will need to be scaled to another level to really supercharge the growth of this nascent sector. There is also quite a large skills gap and capacity training will be critical to help unlock much-needed employment opportunities across the African continent where youth unemployment remains one of the biggest challenges. Most of these electric motorcycles are assembled locally. This presents a massive opportunity to progressively increase the contribution of locally manufactured and sourced components, feeding the growth of downstream industries.
Some countries have understood the opportunity of e-mobility earlier than others and this is the case of Rwanda. Pushed by the desire to improve the air quality and protect the environment, the Rwandan government has put in place attractive policies and fiscal support for companies operating in the e-mobility space. Rwanda is ideal for e-mobility because a lot of the locally produced electricity in Rwanda comes mostly from renewable sources. Players in the EV sector are also adding distributed renewable systems such as solar PV at their battery swapping centers. This makes an electric motorbike in Rwanda have a real impact on reducing the use of imported and expensive fossil fuels.
REM was among the first companies to embrace the e-mobility vision of Rwanda and has developed unique features for its motorbike fleet, such as “retrofits.” Retrofitting consists of transforming an old gasoline motorbike into a fully electric one, at a fraction of the cost of buying a new electric bike. In 2023 REM is now looking at mass expansion of its fleet deployment in Rwanda, to meet the country’s goal of converting 100% of its moto taxi community to electric. And the company is also looking to the wider region to bring about the benefits of electric mobility to as many riders as possible.
The electric motorcycle industry promises to have a really transformational effect on the African continent. It will help displace a significant portion of fossil fuels which are imported from overseas, saving billions in foreign currency. Quite a number of African countries have placed industrialization high up on their national agendas as a pathway to economic growth. The growth of the local electric motorcycle manufacturing industry could catalyze this industrialization.
This industry needs all the help it can get. This is an industry that is ready to scale now. All the technology to get it growing is available now around the world from all the major manufacturers. From local and foreign investments to these companies to enabling policy from local governments, all key stakeholders need to play their part to help this sector grow.
Images from REM
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