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Kenya: increase in charging points encourages electric vehicle use

A technician from Opibus test the lighting system on an electric motorcycle at their warehouse in Nairobi on February 15, 2022.   -  
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In Nairobi, motorcyclists are going electric as new increase in charging points pop up throughout the capital.

More charging stations and lower running costs are making it easier to switch away from polluting petrol vehicles.

The vehicles are gaining traction as electric mobility companies set up ways to charge the batteries. Electric charging cuts carbon emissions, crucial in the battle against climate change.

Ampersand is an e-mobility start-up which began operating in Kenya in May 2022. It has seven battery swapping stations in the capital and around 60 customers.

Ian Mbote, Ampersand's expansion lead, says this form of transport is a money saver.

"Electric mobility is cheaper. You are saving 45 percent, less. To be exact, fuel right now is around 180 shillings per litre. Our batteries cost 185 shillings to swap a full battery. That gives you about 90 to 110 kilometres. That 180 shillings on fuel gives you about 30 to 40 kilometres on a motorcycle," he explains.

In 2022 it sold 44 electric vehicles in Kenya. This year, it's aiming to sell 500.

But Mbote says the government must make it easier to do business.

"We need more policy that favours the industry. And then regulation, if taxes, duties could favour or incentivise the entry to market for electric mobility players, especially two wheelers, that would be beneficial," he says.

There is some consumer hesitancy about switching from petrol to electric. But those who've taken the leap say they are seeing the benefits.

"The maintenance is at low cost because in every month, you don't have to spend on oil change, engine checks, no, it is very minimal," says motorcyclist Cyrus Kariuki.

Ecobodaa Mobility is another electrical mobility company that builds, designs and assembles motorcycles.

Their bikes can carry two batteries which can last for 160 kilometres.

This reduces so-called 'range anxiety', where drivers worry about running out of fuel before they are able to find a charging point.

"For the Kenyan market, electric mobility is the future, considering that over 90 percent of our electricity connection is from renewable sources. This means that electricity costs are going to be more predictable and they are not impacted by the fluctuation of the fuel prices," says Kim Chepkoit, founder and chief executive of Ecobodaa Mobility.

The company was founded in 2020 and will transition from its pilot phase to a commercial roll out of its electric motorcycles this year.

Despite the challenges of convincing drivers to go electric, most predict great things for the industry in upcoming years.

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