Charging infrastructure, batteries choke e-mobility takeoff in Kenya

Low-quality batteries and lack of swap stations are some of the top challenges facing the adoption of electric motorcycles in Kenya and other sub-Saharan Africa, a new report shows.

The Powering Renewable Energy Opportunities (PREO), a catalytic grant provider to early-stage productive use-energy projects and businesses, says the high-quality storage technology is not accessible to early-stage African startups, making it hard to phase out fuel engine motorcycles.

“Access to durable electric motorcycles, reliable charging infrastructure and high-quality batteries remain the three biggest barriers faced by electric motorcycle startups across Africa today,” the report stated.

“To compete with internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts, electric motorcycles must deliver reliable range and performance. But high-quality batteries from overseas suppliers are largely only available to large global buyers, who prioritise volume buyers, creating an obvious barrier among startups in sub-Saharan Africa.”

“As a result, lower-quality batteries are often used, which fail to deliver on their stated performance, preventing electric mobility companies from making profits since batteries require extensive investment.”

The report focuses on three companies – Roam, Mobile Power and Zembo – that are involved in electrifying the African mobility market including motorcycles, tuk-tuks, buses, boats and agricultural mobility.

Swedish-Kenyan electric vehicle firm Roam is among the early players in the Kenyan electric mobility space that is set to become dominant in the future as more countries restrict or ban internal combustion vehicles and motorcycles to protect the habitat.

The report states that its most recent challenge has been faulty batteries, which led to a delay in the delivery of electric motorcycles.

“The batteries were depleted on arrival and inspection revealed that the internal wiring did not meet specifications. For safety purposes, the batteries had to be returned to China for redesign and testing before they could be used locally for the bikes,” PREO stated.

This has seen Roam move to manufacture 35 percent of its electric motorcycles in-house and manufacture and assemble as much as 70 percent of the motorcycle locally over the next three to five years.

The company recently opened a larger plant off Nairobi’s Mombasa Road to assemble up to 50,000 motorcycles per year in the medium term.

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