Local politics, the county, and the world, as viewed by Tammy Maygra
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A breakthrough in Africa
Electric Vehicles To Curb Climate Change in Africa
A company called Spiro, is doing its part to curb climate issues and making motorcycles affordable to the poor and is being quite successful to boot.
In Kenya, people will be offered about $344 – around a third of the price of a new electric bike – to swap their existing bike for an electric one. They can then pay a daily subscription of about $2 which repays the outstanding balance and gives drivers access to battery-swap stations, where they can quickly switch out depleted batteries for fully charged ones.
Not only does the scheme reduce the number of petrol and diesel vehicles on the road and associated air pollution, but it also cuts costs for drivers in both fuel and maintenance, according to the company. The startup notes that some of its motorbike taxi drivers have reported profits rising from around $6 to $11 a day since joining the scheme.
A mechanic assembles electric motorcycle taxis serving a fleet of 200 drivers in Rwanda with motorbikes provided by the company "Spiro", at the company warehouse in Kigali on June 2, 2023. The bikes are designed to be sustainable and affordable and come as an answer to the challenges facing the African continent with regard to the fight against pollution and global warming. Spiro is a leading provider of electric two-wheelers in Africa with nearly 10,000 electric bikes on the road. Headquartered in Benin, the startup is also operating in Togo, Rwanda, and Uganda where it signed a partnership agreement with the government for the deployment of 140,000 electric motorbikes. The startup is also working closely with the Government of Rwanda on a framework agreement to fast-track the process of building an assembly plant in the country in the coming months. Spiro has hundreds of battery-swap and maintenance stations across the countries it operates in, where drivers can switch depleted batteries for fully charged ones.
A 2022 report from the FIA Foundation, an international transport and road safety charity, found that while the purchase price of electric motorcycles is currently greater than that of petrol-powered motorcycles, the operating costs are cheaper. It says that in many African countries, one liter of petrol will power a bike for about the same distance as one kilowatt-hour of electricity but will cost five to 10 times more.
The report adds that battery-swapping initiatives are key in making electric two-wheelers more affordable, because when an electric motorcycle is sold without the battery, it significantly reduces the initial purchase price. Batteries for hire could help Nigerians ditch their generators.
But for battery-swapping to work, there needs to be dependable and available charging infrastructure. Before distributing the first bike, they need to build a network of swapping stations, and they will not be placed erratically: They will carefully study the terrain and position the swapping stations in both urban and rural areas, guaranteeing widespread coverage.
Spiro has committed to building 3,000 of these stations across Kenya, meaning that drivers can rid themselves of range worry, while also contributing to building up the nation’s electric vehicle infrastructure. The company, which currently manufactures most of its bikes and scooters in China, has also agreed to establish a manufacturing base in Kenya to generate local jobs.
Kenya’s president William Ruto, speaking in the coastal city of Mombasa at the launch of the initiative, said: “It creates jobs and transfers knowledge, technology and skills to our market in a very sustainable way.”
The partnership between the Government of Kenya and Spiro, In this agreement, is centered around the delivery of 1.2 million electric motorcycles and the establishment of more than 3,000 swapping stations in Kenya. President William Ruto actually drove a Spiro electric motorcycle during the national launch of the initiative in Mombasa, Kenya.
According to the FIA Foundation, there were 27 million motorbikes registered in sub-Saharan Africa in 2022, increasing from just 5 million in 2010, with around 80% of them used in the motorcycle taxi industry. The demand for two-wheelers is expected to grow even further, with a report from management consulting firm McKinsey estimating that electric and petrol motorbikes will make up over 45% of sub-Saharan Africa’s overall vehicle fleet by 2040. This will be a good thing for the environment and for the people too.
The foundation warns that with increased demand, second-hand motorized vehicles that don’t meet emission standards in other countries around the world might end up being sold in Africa, where there is weak regulation. To avoid the continent becoming a dumping ground for unwanted polluting vehicles, and enabling affordable and reliable electrification will be key. So the government is currently taking steps to avoid this problem.
Spiro, formerly known as M-Auto, is just one of the startups fueling this transition. Swedish-Kenyan startup Roam (formerly Opibus), which converts old vehicles to run off electric motors, opened East Africa’s largest electric motorcycle assembly plant earlier this year, while Ampersand has a fleet of around 1,000 bikes as well as a small network of battery-swap stations across Kenya and Rwanda. Last week, US Company Uber also launched an electric motorbike service in Kenya, promising to roll out 3,000 bikes within six months.
The possibility for these companies to make a huge profit is a sure thing, even while helping people spend less on transportation, by creating jobs, and helping global warming issues with the reduction of pollution. The cost effectiveness for the average or poor people of Africa makes it even a better venture.
The measure of Spiro’s Kenya expansion dwarfs all current fleets. Spiro is exceeding its market predictions but with the major breakthrough of one million electric bikes signed with a government, it is surpassing what everyone thought. The startup has been growing rapidly and by 2030, they want it to be operating in at least 10 African countries.
The fight against climate change is not about one huge idea, but many smaller ones. The Cumulative effect is what will win this life and death path to save our earth.