Uncertainties about e-motorcycles untangled

One of e-motorbikes that was shown to motorists in Kigali last week. / Craish Bahizi

Efforts to embrace the use of clean energy in the transport sector has resulted in the introduction of e-motorbikes. In a recent press conference Safi Ltd, a local start-up announced it was set to start the first phase of using shared e-motorcycles and bicycles in Kigali.

This phase will see at least 60 shared e-motorcycles, each costing around Rwf1.7-1.9 million introduced on Kigali streets.

The move has stirred public interest with many people seeking information largely on how it works.

Additionally, taxi-motorists fear the move could edge them out of business.

The New Times’ Hugues Mugemana interviewed Ike Erhabor, the president of Safi Ltd to shed light on the issues being raised by the public.

Below are the excerpts:

There has been a lot of questions about the lifespan of the batteries for e-motorbikes.

The battery is key. We have been able to make a lithium iron phosphate or LFP battery that is environmentally friendly and is better compared to others.

With a life span of three to four years, when fully charged it will last for a distance of about 90-100 km. It takes 40-45 min to fully charge it. However, for phase two, we shall be able to bring down the charging time drastically.

Additionally, this product was tailored to the Rwandan hilly terrain.

From where will the bikes be charged?

We came up with a charging solution, something that won’t benefit us alone but also other players in the e-mobility business. Petrol stations could be affected by the shift to clean energy mobility. We didn’t come to kick anyone out of business but rather to partners with them. We shall set our charging stations next to the already existing fuel stations and share revenues.

For instance, in Kigali, the charging stations will be within every 10-15 kilometre radius and for upcountry 50 kilometres. The bikes also have an indicator of battery power left in order to help the user plan ahead.

Furthermore, there will be three charging stations, this means that we will be having six bikes recharging at once. 

How affordable will the bikes be, given the high cost of electricity in Rwanda?

In our two years of research, we found out that a fuel-powered motorbike can consume a minimum of Rwf6,000 per day.

With our system, the cost could be brought down to Rwf2,500 per day. We are negotiating with Rwanda Energy Group (REG) for a discount and Rwanda Development Board is supporting us on this. 

REG has suggested that the bikes be charged more during evening hours because there is a surplus of electricity as many businesses are closed. The cost of electricity is low during the off-peak period.

How much electricity will these charging stations be getting from the national grid?

For one nozzle charging station, we have 6 kilowatts. For the two-nozzle station, it will be more.

These stations are also well computerized so that a policymaker can remove the meter and check the consumption data which can be used to formulate policies.

According to REG, Rwanda now generates 224.6 megawatts and only 53 per cent of Rwandans has access to electricity. Rwanda is also adopting the use of solar energy to increase electricity.

What does it mean for Rwandans, particularly the youth, in terms of opportunities?

From an individual perspective, more charging stations will need more attendants. Additionally, as e-mobility is still fresh, we’re partnering with TVET to train students coming out of technical schools. These students will be trained by our Canadian expert on e-mobility and emerge as mechanics on the ground. The training will be conducted at our new training centre in Kimironko which will be operational come this November. We shall also set up shops for spare parts.

Beyond that, we shall also set up a plant in the Economic Free Trade Zone and those are more jobs to the youth.

From a broader perspective, the country will now start to supply e-mobility products in East African and beyond.

Anything you would want to add?

We would wish the government to give some incentives to investors in this industry in order to make these e-motorbikes more affordable for Rwandans.

We would also like to encourage other players to join this business.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com