June 25, 2024
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ELECTRIC motorcycles are set to be a dominant force in sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) sustainable mobility transformation, but continued investment in start-ups tackling barriers across the value chain will be critical to maximise the full potential.

   According to industry estimates, more than 90 per cent of electric motorcycles sold in SSA are imported from China and India and are not built for African conditions.

   The report said poor grid infrastructure means baseline electricity access is not reliable enough to support renewable battery recharge networks, and the electricity supply is weak. In addition, it noted that high-quality battery suppliers prioritise global buyers able to order at volume, which leaves small start-ups out of the picture.

    According to the Powering Renewable Energy Opportunities (PREO) report, which identified ttwo-wheelers are quicker and more easily maneuverable than four-wheeled vehicles, especially across SSA, where countries often have poor-quality roads.

   It said motorcycles also provide stable income opportunities. The PREO outlined the market opportunity for e-motorcycles to become a driving force in the African e-mobility sector as, according to an analysis by Mordor Intelligence, the market for motorcycles in Africa was worth $3.65 billion in 2021, and is projected to grow to $5.07 billion by 2027.

    However, to accelerate progress in the e-mobility sector and meet the demands of a rapidly expanding customer base for two-wheelers, the report said several challenges need to be addressed. These include improving the availability of durable hardware, reliable charging infrastructure, and access to high-quality battery solutions.

    The report examined how three PREO-supported companies – Roam (previously Opibus), Mobile Power, and Zembo – are successfully addressing each of these barriers, and together are providing the solutions needed to support an enabling ecosystem to accelerate progress across the entire e-mobility sector.

    Accordingly, it said durable hardware – Roam is a Swedish-Kenyan company that manufactures robust electric motorcycles in Kenya. The company is demonstrating that with the support of local manufacturing and assembly, the final price of electric motorcycles can be lowered to compete with ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles, while also customising the product to local conditions. Roam has now acquired the capacity to fully design the vehicles and manufacture 35 per cent of them in-house to reach 70 per cent in the next three to five years.

    PREO said the company plans to expand beyond Kenya to other African markets through strategic partnerships, raise $17.5 million in equity and debt for working capital, and hopes to supply Uber with 3,000 electric motorcycles for its delivery services across SSA.

    In the area of reliable charging infrastructure, the report, which referred to Ugandan company Zembo, said it has developed a solution to enable the rollout of e-motorcycles in areas with weak and unreliable access to electricity by using solar energy to charge the batteries.

    In Uganda, Zembo operates 27 battery-swap stations for electric motorcycles, considered one of the largest networks in the region. It sells motorcycles to taxi operators on a pay-as-you-go basis and provides batteries-as-a-service through its battery-swap network. 73 per cent (personnel cost – 55 per cent, rent – 18 per cent) of the monthly cost of operating a swap station is fixed cost in nature, delaying profitability and slowing down expansion.

   In terms of high-quality battery solutions, PREO referenced Mobile Power, which operates in Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria and is tackling the scarcity of high-quality battery technologies for small-scale businesses.

    The company has developed clean energy storage products (lithium-ion batteries) that it offers to businesses and individuals through a rental model. Since 2017, Mobile Power has grown its rental business to 500,000 rentals every month and is gaining 2,000 new customers every week at its peak growth periods.

   In addition, it said Mobile Power is now replicating its rental model in the mobility sector and generator replacement sector by leveraging the same technology components: batteries, battery management systems, and battery charging hubs. The company has now reached a stage whereby it can manufacture robust batteries tailored to African conditions at scale for its in-house use and satisfy the demand of its electric mobility peers.

   Mobile Power’s pay-per-use battery-swap model enables customers to access the service based on their needs.

    PREO Programme Director, Jon Lane, commented “Investing in e-motorcycles provides a path to more sustainable and equitable growth across African communities and addresses the urgent issue of climate change. Through our work with several start-ups, we have identified opportunities for a full ecosystem of solutions that address challenges across the value chain. We hope this report demonstrates the impressive progress being made by companies in the e-mobility sector and will act as a call for investors, policymakers, and partners to engage and collaborate to help meet the scale of the challenge.”

    Co-founder and Chair of Mobile Power, Jono West, said: “PREO’s support has been incredibly valuable to us for de-risking our battery technology and business model. It has enabled us to grow and increase the rate of scale for the e-mobility business and capture learnings that now form the basis of future technology solutions we have in the pipeline, even beyond e-mobility.

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