Electric vehicles and the idea of sustainability are a big thing now, with leading economies across the globe already running programs that will see them ease into EV space in a decade or less.
Generally speaking, bus transit systems with electric traction are an important contribution to the post fossil fuel mobility. Most renewable energy sources provide energy in the form of electricity. Electric motors thus have promise in the development of the way ‘beyond fuel.’
Developing nations are also taking part in this race, but they are yet to achieve what first world countries have done. The US, for instance, has Tesla, among other companies that churn out electric cars in big numbers. The UK, on the other hand, is planning to go fully electric by 2030. Other nations in Asia, including China, are already running electric bus services.
Mass transit through electric buses is what companies such as BasiGo are planning to do. The company has since raised almost half a billion Kenya Shillings to expand the assembly of eletric buses.
But what do we know about the company, and its plans for the Kenyan market as a whole?
We had a brief chat with Jit Bhattacharya, who is the Cofounder and CEO of BasiGo, Kenya.
According to him electric buses are basically what their name suggests.
“An electric bus is much like a diesel bus, but with one major difference – an electric bus has no engine and no diesel. Electric buses are battery-powered. Every night, the batteries on our electric buses are recharged from the electricity grid,” says the CEO.
It has also emerged that Kenya generates more than 75 percent of its power from renewable sources. To this end, BasiGo says that their electric buses would make the nation among the leaders in clean public transportation.
BasiGo, and other companies of its type, are ideally focusing on electric buses, and not cars or any other forms of personal transportation. This has been done by design: electric buses will have by far the greatest environmental and social impact on Kenyan cities while also providing bus operators with better economics than diesel.
Furthermore, there are over 12,000 buses in Nairobi transporting 4,000,000 passengers every day and burning over 150 Million litres of diesel annually.
Clearly, this growing fleet of internal combustion engine buses is one of the largest sources of harmful air pollution and climate warming emissions. To this end, replacing a single diesel bus with an electric bus would eliminate the tailpipe emissions from the diesel bus and mitigate 50 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, far more than replacing a passenger car.
In the same spirit, and according to BasiGo, the operating cost of an electric bus is much lower than a diesel bus so electric buses can actually improve income for bus owners.
If you have been following the events around BasiGo, then you should aware that the company has only two buses that will take part in pilot tests in the city. The firm says the buses are in validation testing in Nairobi to ensure safety, comfort, reliability and compliance.
However, the company will launch these buses into pilot operations with select bus operating partners. At that time, Nairobi passengers will have the opportunity experience commuting on an electric bus firsthand.
This means that interested customers will have to wait for a little longer to take a ride in these vehicles.
With a range of 250 km, it is clear to see the novelty of these vehicles. It is why the company is planning to partner with bus operators.
The operators will recharge their BasiGo electric buses every night at BasiGo charging depots conveniently located along existing bus routes.
BasiGo buses recharge in less than 4 hours.
The sitting capacity is 25 passengers, and the vehicles are equipped with USB charging and Wi-Fi all for free.
The vehicle also has a 100-kilowatt power train with no gear shifting. Like other electric vehicles, it also has regenerative breaking that recaptures power back into the battery every time the driver breaks.
To note, BasiGo will not be a bus operator. It will be a supplier and service provider for electric bus technology to bus owners and SACCO’s in Kenya.
The dynamics of the daily bus operations, including fares, are managed by bus owners, SACCO’s, and regulators. How this will impact bus fares is unknown.
The company has also partnered with BYD, the largest Electric bus manufacturer in the world BYD to bring this product to Kenya and the firm has a plan to locally assemble them in the next phase of its business.
BasiGo plans to launch over 1000 electric buses over the next half a decade, so what is its plan about recharging spots with such high numbers?
Well, the company says its plan is to enable bus operators to own and operate an electric bus with minimal change to their standard operations.
In existing conditions, diesel buses in Nairobi spend every night parked at petrol stations located centrally to where a bus operates.
BasiGo plans to follow an identical strategy, deploying charging stations alongside along the routes of bus SACCO’s operating electric buses. Then, BasiGo charging depots will do more than charge its buses; they will also provide nightly preventative maintenance to ensure that BasiGo electric buses have higher availability than diesel.
The company’s first charging depot is already operating along the Airport North Rd. in Eastern Nairobi from where it is supporting two pilot buses.
Support through government policy
“The Government of Kenya has an incredible opportunity to make Kenya a leader in both the deployment and manufacturing of sustainable mobility. Any policies that the government adopts to help enable the adoption and scale up of e-mobility is a step in the right direction,” says the CEO.
Other developments from the government include the soon to be launched BRT line, which showcases the government’s plan to making Kenya a model for low-emissions public transit in sub-Saharan Africa.
As said, BasiGo will do pilot tests, which will start next month (March 2022). This will be done alongside select partners in Nairobi.
At the moment, the focus is in Nairobi. However, the coming days, and as the company grows, BasiGo plans to expand its offering to bus operators in other the major towns across Kenya and broader East Africa.
Additional plans include will see the company locally assemble the buses here and by that, BasiGo would have lowered costs and helped build the Kenyan economy as it attempts to clean the environment and improve the Public Service Transport industry business.
Overall, such an electric bus system by BasiGo is ecological, customer-friendly and suitable for cities. It has a high economic efficiency, and it also expands the traffic planning field towards an ecological future technology. And we want to see it succeed.