Images courtesy of Watu and ARC Ride

Watu Credit Partners With ARC Ride to Increase Number of EV Battery Swap Stations in Nairobi

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Watu says it has been at the forefront of asset financing for two- and three-wheeler vehicles. So far, the company has financed the purchase of over 100 electric assets in Kenya. Watu’s e-motorbike financing model enables customers to acquire an electric motorcycle for as little as Ksh 450 daily (US$3 per day).

Watu Credit Limited, an asset financing company, has announced a strategic partnership with battery-as-a-service provider ARC Ride. Nairobi-based ARC Ride designs, builds, and assembles electric 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers, as well as a proprietary battery swapping and management platform. ARC Ride is ramping up the rollout of its electric scooters and bikes as well as the installation of its battery swap stations in Nairobi, bolstered by its partnership with global auto parts Tier 1 company Musashi Seimitsu Industry Co., Ltd. The collaboration aims to manufacture 1,000 electric vehicles and establish over 300 battery swap stations in Nairobi by the end of 2024.

ARC Ride says its electric motorbikes are being developed in Kenya through extensive research to ensure they meet local needs. The bikes can be operated with very low maintenance, as they need no oil, chains, gears, and no fuel to operate. This then presents as good proposition for riders in the last mile delivery space to consider switching from ICE vehicles to electric ones.

One of ARC Ride’s flagship products is the Corbett, a practical and durable multi-functional motorbike, designed for goods and food delivery or personal commuting. Here are some specs of the Corbett:

  • 60 km range
  • 60 km/h top speed
  • 200 kg payload
  • 3 kW hub motor
  • Swappable battery
  • Synchro disc brakes
  • Dust & Water Resistance IP67
  • 14″ alloy wheels
  • 4-point adjustable rear wheel
  • Anti-dive, 4-point adjustable front suspension

ARC Ride wants riders to “unleash their style,” and the Corbett has five striking colors riders can choose from, including electric blue, fiery red, vibrant yellow, sleek black, and captivating olive green. It has a 1.44kWh LFP battery, and riders can swap their battery packs at one of ARC Ride’s smart automated swap stations in Nairobi in under 2 minutes.

Watu’s support of the nascent electric mobility sector in East Africa is a welcome development.

“At Watu, we strongly believe that EV is the future. In recognition of the fact that producing the next EV for the African market is an expensive venture, we started investing in ARC Ride to help them in their research and innovation and delivery of bikes responsive to the African market to the ground,” says Erick Massawe, Kenya Country Manager at Watu.

Watu adds that it has consistently been dedicating resources to the development of ARC Ride with an aim to further grow the electric motorbike sector in Kenya. In addition to supporting the production of EVs, Watu is facilitating the setup of battery-swapping stations in Nairobi.

“For most of our riders who use their bikes for business, what they care about is being able to run a more efficient business by spending less on fuel and also having an EV that they can use without worrying that the battery will run dry in the middle of nowhere. We are helping ARC Ride set up more battery-swapping stations across Nairobi. Currently, ARC Ride has put up seventy-six battery-swapping stations across Nairobi and its environs, with a target of having at least one hundred stations by the end of this year. This is central to making increasingly boda boda riders make the switch to EVs,” notes Eric Massawe.

The 76 swap sites are in various locations along Eastlands, Ngong Road, Githurai, Westlands, Kiambu Road, Kebete, Mombasa Road, and Thika Superhighway. The battery swap stations serve at least 50 riders per day, and these numbers have been going up as the number of swap stations increase.

ARC Ride, represented by George Songe, said, “We are expanding our network of automated swapping stations to ensure that electric boda customers can conveniently replace their batteries when the need arises. Customers can replace batteries in under a minute for as low as Ksh 350 per day, for unlimited swaps.”

To make them secure and accessible, the swap stations are set up through partnerships with food chain outlets such as Dominos and Artcaffe and fuel marketing firms such as Ola Energy. A few more partnerships in the pipeline will be announced before the end of 2023.

Erick added that Watu decided to be involved in the EV development process because they have been exposed to the challenges that must be addressed to enable EV adoption across the continent.

The Kenyan government has prioritized the adoption of e-motorbikes into the boda boda sector, and Watu’s investment aligns with the efforts to improve access to charging infrastructure in Kenya. It will further contribute to meeting Kenya’s goal of ensuring that at least 5% of all recently imported vehicles are fully electric by 2025, as stated in the National Climate Change Action Plan.

Andrii Volokha, General Manager for East Africa at Watu, commented, “We want to offer financing solutions that not only make access to e-motorbikes affordable to our customers and accessible nationwide. This investment will boost their penetration and uptake as we play our part to contribute to a just transition.”

There are well over 30 e-mobility startups in Kenya. A lot of them have been running some pilots over several phases over the last four or so years. A lot of them are now starting to move into commercial roll-outs. In this phase, one of the most important things is financial support for both the electric mobility startups and the offtakers (customers). The startups need a lot of capital to scale up production, and the riders need financing to lower the barriers to entry into the world of electric mobility. It’s great to see asset financing companies such as Watu come on board and strongly support the transition to e-mobility in East Africa. I have actually seen one of these ARC Ride Swap stations in action in Nairobi, and it was a pretty cool experience.

There is still a lot of work to be done on all fronts in the electric mobility ecosystem in Kenya to really ramp up the sector and start displacing a good chunk of ICE motorcycles, including on the tech and financing side of things. Players in the sector continue to work and iterate and are making some good progress. There is a good foundation for the electric mobility sector in Kenya, and now the hard work begins to really take it to the next level.


Images courtesy of Watu and ARC Ride

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai

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.

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has 775 posts and counting. See all posts by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai