Africa Climate Summit: Electric motorcycle startup Spiro expands into Kenya


Spiro, a startup looking to get gas-guzzling motorcycles and scooters off the roads by replacing them with electric two-wheelers, is expanding in Kenya.

Ahead of the inaugural Africa Climate Summit, which kicked off in Kenya’s capital Nairobi today, the host government announced on Friday that the e-bike and battery-swapping startup will enter the East African country with its largest deployment yet: 1.2 million electric cars.

This marks a major milestone for the company set up in the West African country of Benin in 2022, says CEO Jules Sameen – significantly increasing its fleet of 10,000 bikes that currently operate across Benin, Togo and Rwanda. This fall, the company will also begin rolling out 140,000 bikes in Uganda for five years.

Samin told CNN that Spiro’s goal is not only to “reduce sources of pollution, but to eliminate them.” Once an old bike is replaced, he explains, its parts will be recycled and reused, adding that the company has organized “crush events” in both Benin and Togo, where they are publicly leveled with motorized vehicles before the materials are reused.

Drivers process varies between countries. And in Kenya, they will be offered 50,000 Kenyan shillings (about $344) — about a third of the price of a new electric bike — to replace their current bike with an electric one. They can then pay a daily subscription of around KES 255 (about $2) to pay off the balance due and give drivers access to battery exchange stations, where they can quickly swap depleted batteries for fully charged ones.

Not only does the scheme reduce the number of petrol and diesel vehicles on the road and associated air pollution, but it also lowers drivers’ costs in both fuel and maintenance, according to the company. The startup reports that some motorbike taxi drivers have reported a rise in earnings from around $6 to $11 per day since joining the scheme.

A mechanic assembles electric motorcycle taxis serving a fleet of 200 drivers in Rwanda with company-provided motorcycles

a Report 2022 The FIA, an international transport and road safety charity, found that although the purchase price of electric motorcycles is currently greater than that of petrol-powered motorcycles, the running costs are cheaper. She says that in many African countries, one liter of petrol is enough to power a bicycle for about one kilowatt of electricity, but its cost would be five to ten times more.

The report adds that battery replacement initiatives are key to making electric two-wheelers affordable, because when an electric motorcycle is sold without the battery, it significantly reduces the initial purchase price.

But for battery swaps to be successful, there must be “reliable and accessible charging infrastructure,” Samin says. “Before distributing the first bike, we built a network of exchange stations, and they are not placed randomly: we carefully study the terrain and place our exchange stations in urban and rural areas, ensuring wide coverage.”

Spiro has committed to building 3,000 of these stations across Kenya, meaning drivers can rid themselves of worrying about range, while also contributing to building the country’s electric vehicle infrastructure. The company, which currently makes most of its bikes and scooters in China, has also agreed to set up a manufacturing base in Kenya to generate local employment.

“It creates jobs and transfers knowledge, technology and skills to our market in a very sustainable way,” said Kenyan President William Ruto, who was speaking in the coastal city of Mombasa at the launch of the initiative.

TOPSHOT - Kenyan President William Ruto uses an electric motorcycle during the national launch of an electric motorcycle project dubbed e-bodaboda in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa on September 1, 2023. The initiative launched by Kenyan President William Ruto is a collaboration between the Government of Kenya and Spiro, a company Two-wheel electric.  This agreement revolved around the delivery of more than one million (1.2 million) electric motorcycles and the establishment of more than 3,000 replacement stations in Kenya.  (Photo by AFP) (Photo -/AFP via Getty Images)

According to the Via FoundationThere were 27 million motorcycles registered in sub-Saharan Africa in 2022, up from just 5 million in 2010, with around 80% of these being used in the motorcycle taxi industry. The demand for two-wheeled vehicles is expected to grow further A report from management consulting firm McKinsey It is estimated that electric and petrol motorcycles will account for more than 45% of the total vehicle fleet in sub-Saharan Africa by 2040.

McKinsey warns that as demand increases, used motorized vehicles that do not meet emissions standards in other countries around the world may end up being sold in Africa, where regulation is weak. To avoid the continent becoming a “dumping ground” for unwanted polluting vehicles, she says, enabling affordable and reliable electricity will be key.

Spiro, formerly M-Auto, is just one of the startups fueling this shift. Swedish-Kenyan startup Roam (formerly Opibus), which converts old vehicles to run on electric motors, has opened its venture in East Africa. The largest electric motorcycle assembly plant Earlier this year, while Ampersand has a fleet of approx 1000 bikes as well as a small network of battery exchange stations across Kenya and Rwanda. And last week, the US company Uber also Electric motorcycle service launched in KenyaIt promised to roll out 3,000 bikes within six months.

But the scale of Spiro’s expansion into Kenya dwarfs all existing fleets. “We are past the symbolic but important milestone of signing one million electric bikes with the government,” says Samin. The startup has set its foot on the accelerator, and by 2030, he wants it to operate in at least 10 African countries.

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