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Africa’s e-mobility needs to expand charging infrastructure

The number of electric vehicles in Africa could increase significantly if only charging infrastructure could keep up with market interest. Strides in micro-mobility in East Africa point to a potential growth point.

Electric motorbike company Ampersand Rwanda earlier this year secured a $3.5million investment – the largest-ever venture capital fund investment from Ecosystem Integrity Fund into sub-Saharan Africa. The investment from the sustainability-focused venture capital company further helps to dispel the myth that electric transport will develop in developed nations first before trickling down to emerging nations second.

Josh Whale, Ampersand CEO firmly believes the micro-mobility (electric motorbikes and three-wheelers) could even help e-mobility in Africa scale up beyond the cities.

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Rwanda: electric motorbike company secures $3.5 million investment

“We can build a commercially viable swap station in a small existing shop for under $5,000. Commercial motorbikes in cities are simply the lowest hanging fruit for us. Large dense markets, for example, 30,000 motorbike taxis within a 12km radius of Kigali, means customers close at hand, established electricity grids with multiple feeds and substations for extra reliability, customers close to R&D and management. And, there are economies of scale from building larger stations,” explained Whale.

Charging infrastructure needs to serve the needs of the many

Several companies are making forays into East Africa with innovative business models for battery swapping as they look to replace diesel and gas with electric motors. They are also looking more broadly at developing charging infrastructure through minigrids or solar stations and integrating e-mobility solutions into agricultural and fishing value chains.

Whale does see scope for expanding the charging infrastructure which underpins small vehicle e-mobility in Africa. He could even see a business case being made for charging stations incorporating more than one company’s batteries into their charging infrastructure.

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“We’re happy to see other batteries on our swap station network, within reason. I think about five different battery types per station are probably manageable at scale, especially if several run on the same voltage, as one would expect. In this respect it’s not that different to a typical petrol station where you offer several different grades of fuel and diesel and perhaps LPG or CNG,” said Whale. ESI

To hear more from Whale join him and fellow speakers Emile Fulcheri, CTO of electric motor-taxi start-up Stimaboda in Kenya; Alexander Koerner, UNEP programmer office; and Hiten Parmar of South Africa’s u-Yilo e-Mobility Programme as they ask Is the evolution of the electric motorbike the beginning of the EV sector in Africa? The Future Energy East Africa webinar into East Africa’s e-mobility Revolution will take place on 14 September at 14.00pm SAST. Register now for your front row seat.

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a conference producer for Clarion Events Africa.