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Charge Up! delivers research and recommendations to fast-track Kenya's e-mobility transition


Due to their affordability and agility, two-wheelers have gained enormous popularity in Kenya as a means of navigating heavily congested urban areas. However, as concern grows around the high levels of pollution and carbon emissions from vehicles with internal combustion engines, particularly conventional motorcycles which emit ten times more pollution per mile than a car, e-motorbikes are rapidly gaining momentum. Yet, despite the Kenyan government's efforts to create a more supportive environment, such as setting targets for the import of electric vehicles and halving related excise duties, an array of economic, operational and logistical barriers continue to hinder the widespread adoption of emerging e-mobility solutions.

One major hurdle is the substantial upfront cost of e-bikes, which poses a significant challenge for many Kenyans. Since February 2022, Charge Up! – a collaborative project between Energy 4 Impact, ARC Ride, Fika Mobility, Imperial College London and Strathmore University with funding from P4G – has set out to overcome this challenge by pioneering a battery-as-a-service (BaaS) business model that decouples bike and battery ownership, enabling drivers to access charged batteries for a small fee at swap stations.

Klaudine Wakasa, Head of Global Advisory at Energy 4 Impact, explains how this works:

Most e-motorcycles retail for between USD $1,350 and $1,500 in Kenya, but putting models without batteries on the market reduces costs by approximately 40%, making them cost-competitive with conventional motorcycles. Improving affordability for consumers, particularly taxi drivers on marginal incomes, is vital for driving their widespread adoption. The innovative BaaS model offers drivers a convenient way of renting fully charged batteries in the same time it takes to refuel with gasoline. Not only does battery rental compare favourably to gasoline in terms of cost, it also enhances the overall driving experience with quieter and more pleasant rides, whilst at the same time eliminating fossil fuel emissions, mitigating localized pollution and addressing the pressing issue of climate change.

Despite its potential, the lack of understanding regarding the profitability of the BaaS model poses a significant obstacle to its successful implementation. For the past 14 months, using catalytic grant funding from P4G, the Charge Up! partners have harnessed geospatial data from charging stations set up by commercial partners Arc Ride and Fika Mobility along well-travelled routes to build up a data bank of bike trip statistics, enabling them to gain insights into the typical charging requirements of riders. Given riders in Nairobi typically travel between 100 and 200km per day, they not only need to avail fully-charged high performance batteries on a frequent basis, but densifying and expanding the network of charging stations is also clearly a priority. Through the dataset provided by the riders, Charge Up! has developed a model that can assist other e-mobility companies in determining the optimal locations for future stations. An ongoing second phase of this work is focussed on optimising this model to enhance its usability and utilisation by a broader range of e-mobility companies. In addition, Charge Up! has utilised this data, along with insights and experiences shared by ARC Ride and Fika Mobility, to make headway towards establishing a compelling value proposition for a business model that can be replicated and scaled across Africa.

Charge Up! has produced a comprehensive set of knowledge products and evidence-based recommendations specifically tailored to the Kenyan e-mobility sector. These resources not only provide invaluable guidance for companies aiming to implement the BaaS model successfully but also emphasize the broader transformation required to cultivate a vibrant and sustainable e-mobility ecosystem.

Drawing upon data and experiences gained on the ground in Nairobi by commercial partners Fika Mobility and ARC Ride, Charge Up! Battery-as-a-Service: a pioneering business model for driving the e-mobility transition in Kenya provides a toolkit for fledgling e-mobility companies, unpacking the value proposition of the BaaS model with a focus on cost and convenience as drivers of demand. It also outlines best practice, such as extending battery lifecycles with preventative maintenance and slower charging times, to optimise their chances of successful operationalisation.

Policy Recommendations for Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure in Kenya highlights the critical fiscal and non-fiscal incentives required in the short- to medium-term to ensure favourable conditions for building charging infrastructure. Policy recommendations from Charge Up! include adopting an industrial tariff for designated charging and battery swapping stations, waiving import duties and VAT on new electric vehicles, EV batteries, charging and battery swapping equipment, establishing Low Emission Zones as well as providing for EV charging stations in city planning rules and building codes, and promoting the interoperability of e-mobility infrastructure and services.

Taking an overview of the wider ecosystem, Charge Up! Kenya Charging Forward: A brief assessment of Kenya’s e-mobility policy landscape and proposed changes highlights the current policies, laws, regulations, plans, strategies, and major projects relating to e-mobility in Kenya, whilst also assessing the changes and recommendations mooted by various players to hasten the transition to electric vehicles. It provides a comprehensive analysis of recent developments around government targets, fiscal and financial incentives, e-mobility and renewable energy tariff structures, infrastructure planning and roll-out, data availability and sharing, as well as battery reuse, recycling, and disposal.

Data Swap! Using shared data from battery swapping e-motorcycles in Nairobi aims to rectify the dearth of available data on e-motorcycle usage which hinders deployment by commercial players. The report uses real analytics data from e-motorcycles and battery swap stations in Nairobi to conduct the modelling needed to determine key outputs such as battery swapping demand; battery charging energy consumption; swap battery charging related emissions for a high renewables and high thermal energy mix scenario; charging related electricity costs for different tariff scenarios; the effect of a co-ordinated charging scenario on emissions and tariffs; optimal battery ratios and required numbers of swap stations.

Robyn McGuckin, P4G Director of Partnerships attests to the power of partnership when it comes to developing transformative solutions:

The Charge Up! partnership has drawn upon the complementary expertise of key players in sustainable development, academia and the private sector to develop a pioneering framework for scaling e-mobility in Kenya. We hope the body of research and recommendations emerging from Charge Up! will inform and influence effective policy and enabling systems as the country pivots towards more sustainable transportation. These solutions can enable greater investment in the e-mobility sector, leading to much-needed social, economic and environmental impact, including emissions reduction and the creation of green jobs.

Over the next few months, Charge Up! will validate the proposed masterplan for the electric vehicle charging network across Nairobi using a broader set of field data. The project will share these findings with key stakeholders from the sector and incorporate their recommendations to operationalise the BaaS model, identifying the best approach for companies seeking to commercialise this pioneering business model.