Ampersand , one of the pioneers in the African electric motorcycle sector, is ramping up its operations. Ampersand was founded in 2014 in Kigali, Rwanda, and quickly started work on motorbike and battery prototypes which were put on road to get real data in the actual conditions that the motorcycles would be used by customers in the particular target market. Along with valuable insights, this helped validate and refine its assumptions and then iterate based on the findings. Armed with this particular knowledge, Ampersand launched the first phase of its commercial operations in May 2019. The company launched with 20 bikes of the improved motorcycle, Africa’s first sales of an electric taxi motorcycle.
Ampersand says all of the 20 bikes are still on the road almost 4 years since being introduced on the streets of Kigali. Ampersand then proceeded to rollout battery swap stations around Kigali. These stations support Ampersand moto-taxi drivers by providing them with an efficient plus fast energy top up model along with a similar user experience in terms of time spent at the station as internal combustion engine motorbikes riders within the motorcycle taxi cab industry are used to at petrol stations.
Ampersand then gradually increased the fleet to about 60 motor bikes on the particular road over the 3 many years following the commercial launch. In that period, Ampersand also spent a lot of time working on a monitoring and transaction platform for its battery swapping network. This work included incorporating mobile money payments, simplifying the battery exchange system, and other improvements on the backend. It also developed and refined the particular battery management system associated with its electric battery packs. This particular helped Ampersand refine its systems plus processes to enable it to scale to the point where it is now doing over 60, 000 battery pack swaps per month, serving over 3 million kilometers in the same timeframe! Ampersand would have been even further ahead at this point had this not been for the particular Covid-19 induced supply chain issues. Just like everybody else in the automotive field, Ampersand is still feeling the effects of the particular constraints along the supply string. This recently resulted in 100 finished Ampersand bikes sitting in their factory for more than 2 months waiting for Battery Management System chips.
Ampersand’s motorcycles have been well received inside the market, leading to the backlog of reservations. The particular waiting list currently stands at just over 7, 500. One of the major reasons for the uptake was the easier operations and maintenance associated with electric vehicles. Ampersand says its heavy investment within R& D and production on the particular ground in Kigali has also produced a very reliable battery power. In East Africa, Ampersand’s bikes are running between 10, 000 and 40, 000 km before any service calls, that’s about half a year’s mileage for most riders based on the general nature of the motorcycle taxi industry in that part of the world. This has been a game-changer for riders as compared to the service intervals for their old ICE motorcycles. SNOW motorcycle users have in order to do oil changes every two weeks or less depending on mileage. Along with changing oil filters, this comes out to about $200 per year that riders have to fork out just for servicing their motorcycles. But the lion’s share of the particular savings arrives from replacing fuel with battery swaps. Before 2022, Ampersand provided a saving of close to 35%, or $500 a year. With current fuel prices, that saving has skyrocketed to nearly 50%.
Ampersand says its focus this 12 months has been scaling from its earlier prototypes plus test manufacturing runs in order to its first full creation run associated with its commercial motorcycle, growing from sixty motorbikes on the highway at the start of 2022 to 800 now, becoming the biggest commercial electrical motorcycle navy in Far east Africa several times over. Sixty of these are in Kenya and the rest are in Rwanda. Ampersand plans to have 6, 500 electric powered motorcycles inside operation by the end of next year and ramp up to among 20, 500 and 30, 000 in 2024. A next generation battery pack, change system, and new motorcycle is also within the works.
But Ampersand says it is first plus foremost the transport power company, not a motorcycle company. Ampersand wants to be the particular long term energy service provider with regard to the commercial electric motorbike users, whether the motorbikes are usually from Ampersand or any kind of OEM. Its system is designed to easily integrate with all the big popular ICE bike models. Ampersand retains ownership of the battery packs and provides motorcycle operators along with access to the network associated with battery changing stations. Ampersand now has 7 swap centers in Nairobi, Kenya, and 11 in Kigali, Rwanda. The plan is to expand procedures to Tanzania, Uganda, along with other markets in the near future. The model of retaining possession of the particular batteries and providing power as a service to the motorbike riders will enable Ampersand to ensure that the batteries will certainly always be charged under the best conditions. The monitoring platform will furthermore allow the organization to get constant visibility upon all the important parameters, enabling it in order to continuously assess its assets and carry out any preventive or even corrective maintenance should any kind of issues arise.
Motorcycle cab riders are also getting more confident and much less worried regarding range anxiety. Ampersand’s motorcycle with a mid-drive electric motor has an average range of 72 km per charge within Kigali plus 80km in Nairobi. Motorcycle taxi cyclists in Kigali do about 160 kilometres per day. In the early days, riders would arrive at a swap station when the battery was in 40% state of charge (SOC). They then became well informed and returned to exchange centers when the SOC was about 30%. Now riders are even more confident inside the range and generally swap once the SOC will be 20%.
There are an estimated 125, 000 ICE motorcycles in Rwanda and more than 2 mil in Kenya. Other estimates put the total number of ICE motorbikes in Africa at thirty million and fuel spend at over $30B per year. In many parts of The african continent, motorbike taxis represent the particular majority associated with all road traffic. Ampersand’s vision is usually to be among the leaders in this space and aims to have a lot more than 600, 000 electric motorbikes across East Cameras by 2030. Smart partnerships and innovative asset financing models will be key to growing the sector to reach those levels. Ampersand’s approach is all about collaborating with key stakeholders across the value chain. Already it has partnerships with regional asset finance powerhouses Bboxx, Watu, and M-Kopa vehicle finance, and TotalEnergies, Africa’s largest fuel station network.
The vehicle financing industry for the particular motorcycle taxi industry is definitely well developed in the region. One can even pay within weekly installments spread more than 18 months in order to acquire a motorcycle. Virtually all motorbike taxi drivers need such financing to buy their motorbikes. This makes the sticker price from the motorcycle somewhat academic: It’s the weekly repayments and repayment period that matter most. Ampersand states they have noticed that funding companies now have more faith in electrical motorcycles and see fewer defaults, to the particular point of some offering financing from close to 25% less than the normal interest in order to customers taking Ampersand’s electric motorcycles. Even with a higher sticker price than fuel bikes, this translates to an overall net preserving of regarding 6% regarding the bikers on their own weekly payments, even when Ampersand sells its motorbikes intended for $200 more than the petrol competitors.
It’s great to see that local firms like Ampersand are usually making crucial progress within the drive to electrify the particular motorcycle sector in Eastern Africa. All their work can be starting in order to pay off right now. Together, Ampersand’s asset financing partners have expressed an interest inside financing over 50, 500 electric motor bikes for motorcycle taxi motorcyclists. This will be the game-changer.
Ampersand also sees an opportunity to offer access to new demographics of motorists joining the motorcycle taxi cab industry along with electric automobiles. This year, Ampersand worked with partners UN Habitat, GIZ, Jali Finance, plus SolutionsPlus in order to launch a female driver program in Kigali. The particular motorcycle cab industry is the 2nd biggest industry in Rwanda, but has historically been the male-dominated field. With growth projections to get East Africa and the particular continent, this industry is certainly only expanding. Before the program within Kigali, there were below 20 female moto-taxi drivers. This project more compared to doubled that will number, bringing 24 more women to the particular industry on Ampersand bicycles by giving motorbike safety and training as well as training for other critical skills like customer service, financial literacy, plus business education.
Images courtesy associated with Ampersand
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