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Energy

The Race for Electric Boda Bodas in Kenya

Posted on 4 min read

Twenty years ago, motorcycles were a preserve for the rich in Kenya. In rural areas, a few teachers owned them, and agricultural extension officers used to ride them as they went for farm visits. They were not common, and were never a public means of transport.

This all changed when President Mwai Kibaki’s government implemented some policies that lowered the buying price of motorcycles, enabling many people to acquire them. Many youths jumped into the opportunity and motorcycles, popularly known as Boda Bodas in East Africa, went mainstream in Kenya.

Since then, motorcycles are a preferred means of transport in all parts of Kenya. As of 2020, there were more than 1.4 million boda boda riders in Kenya, doing a total of 22 million rides per day. The total revenue from the industry is KShs 980 million per day.

The Energy Part

One of the associated industries that has gained from the growth of boda boda is the energy sector, where it is estimated that the riders spend about 25% of their income on fuel. This would translate to about KShs 250 million spent every day on fuel.

It is this lucrative industry that is attracting different players with electric bikes. Traditionally, motorcycles run on petroleum fuel which has a lot of negative effects on the environment. Besides, the cost of repair and maintenance is high due to the many parts involved using Internal Combustion Engines.

With electric bikes, boda boda operators can save on fuel costs, spare parts, serving, and reduce their Carbon dioxide emissions.

Startups in the Electric Motorcyle Business in Kenya

Here are few startups that are seeking a piece of cake in lucrative electric boda boda sector.

Ampersand

Ampersand is an electric motorbike company which has been operating in Rwanda, but now expanding to other countries in East Africa. In April 2021, Ampersand secured a funding of 3.5 million USD from the Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF) to fund its expansion. Already, the company has advertised for various positions as it plans its entry into the Kenyan market.

Ampersand assembles its electric motorcycles and finances riders to acquire the bikers, as well as providing swap stations where riders come to swap batteries once charge is depleted.

Opibus

Opibus is a Kenyan based electric mobility start-up that has successfully converted Internal Combustion Engine vehicles to electric. One of the products that they are building is an electric motorcycle that is locally designed in Kenya.

Opibus’ electric motorcycle comes with a 2.9kWh battery with an extra slot for an optional second battery, and is available for preorder in Kenya, with delivery dates starting late 2021.

Ecobodaa

Ecobodaa is a Kenyan startup that is slowly disrupting the boda boda industry in Kenya. The startup providers riders with electric motorbikes that are designed and assembled in Kenya, and supports them to succeed as boda boda riders. With its unique ride-to-own financing model, riders get to own their bikes after sometime.

Ecobodaa launched a successful pilot program in 2020 before beginning their expansion. The startup has secured funding from Persistent Energy Capital in April 2021 to help accelerate its growth in Kenya.

Mazi mobility

Mazi mobility is another Kenyan startup that is assembling electric motorbikes in Kenya. Founded in 2020, Mazi mobility seeks to enable boda boda riders in Kenya to acquire electric bikes and provides battery swapping stations where riders will quickly swap their batteries quickly and efficiently.

Kiri EV

Founded in 2020, Kiri EV manufactures electric motorcycles in Kenya. It also provides charging stations, as well as battery swap stations. The firm has been in pilot phase but is now taking preorders from the public.

Fika mobility

Fika mobility wants Kenyans to transition to electric motorcycles by offering them affordable electric motorcycles and providing battery swap station for easy charging.

ARC Ride

Arc Ride is a British startup that offering electric motorcycles in East Africa. The startup is focusing on assembling electric motorbikes, establishing solar charging networks, assisting in ownership and offering fleet management services.

Stima

STIMA enables boda boda riders to acquire electric motorcycles and offers a battery swapping network to enable faster and easy battery swap.

Uber

In May 2021, Uber announced the launch of electric boda bodas in Kenya on its platform. This would allow riders offering the Uberboda, Uber connect and Uber Eats to run the service on electric motorcycles.

Bolt

Bolt followed Uber’s move and unveiled electric motorcycles in Kenya in June 2021. The electric motorbikes are in use by Bolt Food Carriers who do food delivery and will be expanded into the ride hailing business.

Others

There are some startups that are solely dedicated to providing charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. These include Chaji Energy and E-safiri.

UNEP’s Electric Mobility Programme has also added a voice in the race to electrify the boda boda industry in Kenya. Earlier in 2021, UNEP donated 99 electric bikes that are in use in Kenya in Karura Forest, Kenya Power and Lighting company, Power Hive and Kisumu County.

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Kenya Power can Transform Rural Kenya with Affordable Internet

Posted on 2 min read

Kenya Power is one of the companies that has caused chest pains to many Kenyans. Ordinary Kenyans are always crying for one reason or another, and rarely does it elicit any positive comments. For shareholders, it is a worse story as shown by the share price below.

Recently, Kenya Power announced plans to connect rural homes with internet. This is a good plan, but coming almost too late. I have always thought Kenya Power could have become an ISP long time ago because they already have the infrastructure. It could also have helped to halt their dwindling fortunes through the alternative source of income. Past executives at the company must have slept on the job.

While people debate whether Kenya Power can provide reliable internet, I do not think this should be a matter of debate. Already, Kenya Power has cables running into millions of homes. They have a wide network of dark fiber that telecommunication companies lease to ‘carry the internet’ that we use every day. They have a fully fledged telecommunications department that is up to the task.

Why then not provide internet?

Reliable Internet

Reliability is not a question here because we are already having a situation where people do not have access to the internet. It is unimaginable to work from home in rural areas because the only option available is mobile internet, which sometimes is unreliable and also very expensive. This is the gap that Kenya Power can fill.

It will also be a good thing for the environment, for there will be no need to lay new poles and posts to carry the cables. Neither will there be need to dig up trenches for infrastructure. Already, some ISPs are using existing Kenya Power posts to run their optical fiber network. It has already been tested.

The other unintended benefit is that power and internet will always go down at the same time, giving rural chaps a break to go and walk in the villages.

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NopeaRide is Making Clean Mobility a Reality in Kenya

Posted on 3 min read

One of the major obstacles to making environmentally conscious decisions is the immediate cost that is involved in many cases. It costs one convenience when you have to choose sort out their garbage and dispose it in the right way. It is inconvenient when for people when a country bans single use plastic bags, like Kenya did in 2017.

This is the case for electric vehicles in Kenya, where adoption has majorly been by enthusiasts and people who want to make a statement. This is because the supporting infrastructure is still in its nascent stage, and you will have some trouble charging your car somewhere between Nairobi and Mombasa.

However, an unlikely disruption is happening. NopeaRide is a ride hailing company that is unique and a first mover, because it runs 100% electric cars in Nairobi. That in itself is something good, but there is more to it.

Price Sensitive Market

Many Kenyans are very price sensitive, and the choice of a taxi service is often informed by the fare that they will be charged. This is where NopeaRide gains an unlikely competitive advantage.

NopeaRide charges lower prices than other ride hailing service, allowing one to save money and enjoy a clean, green ride. If in doubt, just check the price estimates from point A to B and compare it with the prices on NopeaRide app, using similar categories of vehicles with the same safety rating.

One would expect that an electric taxi charges you more, but it is actually the opposite. NopeaRide has the price advantage.

Better Terms for Drivers

Electric vehicles have another advantage that drivers and owners can enjoy. They are easier to maintain because they have fewer moving parts compared to internal combustion engines. An example of this is in use of electric motorcycles for bodaboda, where it was found that riders reduced their maintenance cost by 90%.

But the main catch for electric taxis on NopeaRide is that drivers earn more, and spend virtually nothing on fuel. Drivers earn 50% more than those in other ride hailing platforms. For fuel, drivers can recharge their cars for free at the various recharge stations within the city.

Nairobi is Ideal for Electric Taxis

Why would an electric ride hailing choose to launch in Nairobi and not any other place? One of the reasons for this is the ideal conditions offered by the city.

EkoRent founder Juha Suojanen says that Nairobi has some large population of 4.3 million living in area that is roughly 30 km by 30 km. This puts any point within the range of all electric vehicles, and makes it easy to create an effective charging network. Besides, and ordinary driver in Nairobi also drives for only short distances in a day, hence electric cars can be ideal.

Kenya is already a global leader in using cleaner energy, with 93 of electricity being generated from renewable sources. Perhaps, Nairobi should take the challenge and go all green. NopeaRide has already set the foundation for that.

Next time you are going out, trying an electric taxi.

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Understanding your Electrical Power Consumption

Posted on 3 min read

I once met a reasonable fellow who was concerned that charging his mobile phone overnight was the reason why his electricity bills were skyrocketing.

This may sound funny, but it is not funny that most people do not know what appliance is an electricity guzzler and which one is not. Consequently, they do not even know how they can reduce their electricity consumption.

In this article, I would want to explain where your electricity units/tokens go to by looking at various devices and their power consumption behaviors.

Power Rating

The main indicator of the amount of electrical energy that a device consumes lies in its power rating. In fact, power rating is defined as a quantity that describes the total electrical power required for normal operation of an electric appliance.

This is usually in form of watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). The higher the rating, the higher the electrical energy consumption. For example, a device rated 100 Watts consumes ten times more power than a device rated 10 Watts. Power rating can be found in the in the literature that accompanies the appliance, or usually printed somewhere at the back of the appliance. It can also be calculated from the various parameters given, such as Voltage and Current requirements.

Here is typical rating of some common household devices. This can vary from brand and manufacturer to another.

DeviceWattage (W)
LED light bulb5
42’ LED TV60
Home theatre70
Microwave1200
Fridge90
Induction cooker2000
Blender500
Laptop60
Rice cooker 1 liter500
Instant shower6000
Drill600
Electric chainsaw1200
Washing machine2200
Electric Iron2000
Kettle2000
Toaster2000
Dishwasher2000
Common home appliances and their power rating

Time

The other factor that will determine how much electrical energy a device consumes is the time that it is running. A 10 Watt device running for two hours will consume the same amount of energy as a 5 Watt device running for four hours. This is the reason why a 5 Watt LED lamp running for a whole night has little impact on your electrical consumption, while an electric oven running for 1 hour has a significant consumption.

Understanding your power needs would thus require you to put into consideration the amount of time each device is in use.

Calculating your Electrical Power Consumption

We pay for electrical energy depending on the number of units consumed. This is what many people refer to as tokens.

One unit of electrical energy refers to 1 kilowatt hour(kWh). A kWh equals the amount of energy you would use by keeping a 1,000 watt appliance running for one hour.

As you can see, the units are a function of power rating (kW) and time (h). If you run a 500 watt rice cooker for 45 minutes you are going to consume 0.5 kW × 0.75 hours = 0.375 kWh. This translates to 0.375 units. (Remember to use power in kilowatts and not watts. 1kW = 1000 Watts).

With this information you can tell how much power (units) each device consumes every day, depending on the power rating and the time it runs. Here is the table again with the number of units consumed if each of those devices runs for 1 hour.

DeviceWattage (W)Units consumed per hour (kWh)
LED light bulb50.005
42’ LED TV600.06
Home theatre700.07
Microwave12001.2
Fridge900.09
Induction cooker20002
Blender5000.5
Laptop600.06
Rice cooker 1 liter5000.5
Instant shower60006
Drill6000.6
Electric chainsaw12001.2
Washing machine22002.2
Electric Iron20002
Kettle20002
Toaster19001.9
Dishwasher20002
Units consumed by home appliances per hour

From the table you can see that LED bulb have very low consumption. In fact, leaving it on for 24 hours will cost you 0.12 units. Running a microwave for 10 minutes uses the same amount of energy, which is 0.12 units.

Reducing your Electricity Consumption

With this information, you can easily tell what is ‘eating up’ your tokens. If you want to make a saving plan, focus more on the devices that consume a lot of power.

For example, we saw that a 5 watt bulb consumes 0.12 units if running for 24 hours. On the other hand, if you extend your shower by one minute (operating at maximum setting), it costs you an extra 0.1 units. This would mean that being efficient with your instant shower saves you more than you can ever save with a single light bulb.

PS: Need help in managing your energy consumption and power bills? Let’s chat on WhatsApp here.

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The Evolution of Electricity and Home Appliances

Posted on 3 min read

In 1879, Thomas Edison had a light bulb moment – literally. He invented a working light bulb. It was a major disruption to a world that was used to expensive and dirty oil lamps. Only the rich could afford to stay up late at night burning the mid night oil. The world was on the blink of a revolution.

To make the invention work, several things needed to be done. One of them was a method of electrical production and distribution. In 1882, Edison switched on the first power station that would produce electricity and distribute it to neighboring factories. This was the beginning of the long journey towards commercializing electricity and a lot of work went into inventing and designing the infrastructure that would make that a success.

Transmission over long distance was a problem until a Swedish Engineer Jonas Wenström came up with a solution that was in form of Three Phase AC current. This allowed for industries to be build away from Power generation sites, such as rivers. Prior to that, electricity needed to be produced near where it would be consumed and this would involve playing about with the location of the consumers (industries), or the power plants. Today, electricity can be transported over thousands of miles with minimal losses.

As electricity became a popular source of energy, one area that had a slow application was in the home appliances.

The Start of Home Appliances

Initially, electricity was being supplied in homes only for lighting purposes and it remained so for a long time. There were no electric appliances to be used at home. It was a lighting affair.

Appliances started showing up with the electric fan in 1890. Electric iron, vacuum cleaner, toaster, and a washing machine showed up. All these were primitive devices, very different from what we have today. The vacuum cleaner as so bulky that it needed at least two people to operate. It was the beginning of an age that people realized that they could use the newly available energy to make work easier at home.

The development followed an interesting path because houses were only wired for lighting. This means that all the appliances that were available would all be screwed into the bulb holder. There were neither electric sockets/receptacles nor switches that could regulate the flow of power. Devices were meant to be unplugged when not in use.

With time, home appliances became more affordable, available and safer to use. This necessitated planning for them, and building services providers started to design the house wiring in a way that could accommodate the appliances.

With the advent of consumer electronics, home appliances increased and today there are tens of appliances that are used at home. These include air conditioners, dishwashers, clothes dryers, drying cabinets, freezers, refrigerators, kitchen stoves, water heaters, washing machines, trash compactors, microwave ovens, and induction cookers.

Other smaller appliances include juicers, electric mixers, meat grinders, coffee grinders, deep fryers, herb grinders, food processors, electric kettles, waffle irons, coffee makers, blenders, dough blenders, rice cookers, toasters and exhaust hoods. Consumer electronics include radio receivers, TVs, cameras, computers, smartphones and many more.

Advancement in Home Wiring

House wiring has been standardized to allow for the adoption of various home appliances that may be needed. One of the needs today is to allow for smart devices that are interconnected and possibly connected to the internet.

However, the current wiring practices applied today are very rigid and possibly fit for the late 80’s. Even houses that are being built today fail to plan for the increasing number of appliances that are in use today and with little planning for smart devices. Even with simple devices like home theaters, one is forced to run cables under the seats and in awkward places. CCTV installations force one to start drilling and fitting conduits in places where they could have easily been provisioned for during the design. Getting the WiFi signal in different parts of the house is usually a hectic task.

It is like we are still living in the age when everything was plugged into the light bulb holder.

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Reasons Why People opt for Solar Energy

Posted on 1 min read

Almost everyone is switching to solar.

That’s not true, but it is a common statement today. The world is talking about renewable energy and for most people, solar comes to mind. If you want to join the bandwagon, perhaps you need to figure out if it is suitable for you. Here are some of the reasons why people are opting for solar energy.

  • Some people are looking for a cleaner source of energy that is good for the environment.  This is a major motivation for many people who are keen on sustainability.
  • Others are looking for a cheaper source of power. They turn to solar to help lower their utility bills.
  • Some are looking for independence and a form of power they have more control over. The utilities may not offer the level of reliability that they need.
  • In areas not served by power utilities, people have no other option. They turn to solar.
  • Still, others want solar energy because it is cool. They want to throw the lines like ‘since I went off the grid…’ or share photos of their impressive installations. For these, solar is and will remain cool in an Instagramable world.

What’s your reason?

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