There has been a lot of talk about electric vehicles in Kenya, and the conversation is about sustainability. Companies such as BasiGo have already dived into the space and have since launched two electric buses for test purposes in Nairobi. Opibus is eyeing the same market too, but it will start with 10 buses sometime in the second half of 2022. It is an interesting space, as a whole, because developed nations are already way ahead than we are, and others such as the UK are planning to phase out gas-powered vehicles by 2030.
E-taxi company Little has since announced plans to partly go electric, but its case is a little different because it will focus on bikes. To note, this is the first time we have seen such a development because other organizations that are pursuing the vehicle electrification route have mostly ignored bikes. Little believes that the starting point should be bikes, and I’m included to agree with them too.
A chat with Little CEO Kamal Budhabhatti has since revealed more, and here are a few pointers that you might want to know about the e-bike plan:
- First, electric bikes have, well, an electric component. However, they can be manual too. ‘That means you pedal, and on every pedal, it boost a bit so you do not really get tired. E-scooters are electric only and you do not have to many any effort,’ says CEO Kamal.
- Little will provide e-bikes with a pedal and motor drive.
- The maximum speed of the e-bikes will be 30 km/hr.This speed is controlled Little. However, what Little has done is limit the speed to 15 km/hr for the the period under test.
- In terms of longevity, Little says that the bikes and e-scooters are quite sturdy. ‘However we believe that the life of the asset is about 9 months. After that we have to either write it off, or give it a major uplift,’ says Kamal. To be honest, this is a very short period to have the electric components written off or upgraded, but that could change in the coming days.
- Little is piloting the service in one of the campus of the University of Nairobi. The plan is to bring the e-bikes to all major universities in the country. Nonetheless, for now, the bikes will be inside university campuses.
- The IoT software that controls the e-bikes is developed by Little, or rather, Craft Silicon. The electric assets, for now, are being sourced from China, but the plan is to assemble locally.
- Little has a team on ground that will be charging the bikes at night. On a full charge, the bikes can go up to 40 km.
- Asked if Little is planning to electrify its e-cab business, CEO Kamal says that there is no such plan in the pipeline. ‘Electric cars are not something that we are looking at currently. But it can change based on the market dynamics,’ he adds.
‘Since we have built technical capabilities on IoT device programming, we would like to focus on software more than the mechanical aspects of the cycles,’ clarifies the CEO.
- How about support from the government in this electrification journey? ‘We would like to Government to have a supportive regulation that would allow companies like Little and others to get incentives on taxes and implementation. We are also talking to some county governments if they can provide some level of security of assets to put them in certain city area,’ says Kamal.
Overall, Little says it has received good feedback from customers and partners who have used the e-bikes.
‘We have gotten excellent feedback from our customers who are riding them, and as much as its still in its infancy, we believe the future is bright,’ concludes Kamal.
We will update this story once Little makes any developments in terms of piloting and reach.