By Gregor Padovan
Whether in Nairobi, Lagos, Kinshasa or Kampala, the most widely used means of transport is the motorbike. Whether in private use or as a taxi, the motorbike is irreplaceable.
This is mainly because in many African areas the roads are in poor condition and public transport is not reliable enough.
Today there are an estimated 30 million motorcyclists in Africa, who collectively spend $30 billion a year on petrol alone. However, the high use of conventional petrol motorbikes has serious implications for people and the environment. These include air pollution, high carbon emissions as well as noise pollution.
In this blog, however, I will focus less on the environmental impacts and more on the problems faced by taxi motorcyclists.
Joseph Kamau is 35 years old, married and has two daughters. He has been driving people around on his motorbike for 7 years and earns his living that way. A 12-hour working day brings him an income of 6 dollars in the evening. Although he earns over 15 dollars in one day, he must spend about 6 dollars a day on maintenance and petrol. Furthermore, he has leasing costs for his motorbike.
The extreme use of motorbikes in Africa thus brings two significant problems. One is the enormous environmental impact and the other is the high maintenance and fuel costs for the riders. STIMA has made it its main task to get a grip on these problems.
STIMA is a Nairobi-based start-up that designs and provides low-cost electric motorbikes for the African market.
Their plan: to protect the environment through electrically powered motorbikes and to reduce costs for riders through quick and easy battery changes. The electric motorbikes are expected to save $750 per year per rider in costs, which is equivalent to 5 months of additional income.
The electric motorbike provided by STIMA costs around 1500 dollars, which should make it accessible to everyone in Africa, regardless of their income. It is also lightweight and easy to maneuver, which is ideal for tackling the often rough and narrow roads in rural areas.
Since it does not make sense to use large batteries due to the weight and size, small batteries with lower capacities are to be used.
If we assume that a driver covers 100 km a day, the battery will have to be recharged once a day on average. However, as the driver is not particularly interested in losing time by charging his battery, it makes more sense to exchange the empty battery for a full one.
The entire STIMA system therefore stands or falls with the quick possibility of changing the motorbike batteries.
Such a battery replacement system for electric motorbikes already exists in Taiwan and is called Gogoro. However, this system is not feasible on the African market. On one hand, because the Gogoro system is about changing batteries with too low ranges and on the other hand, because it is a self-service system. Such self-service systems are not standard in Africa and therefore have little chance of becoming established.
The STIMA model offers a different solution. The battery change is supposed to take place within a few minutes in modular containers by trained personnel. You hand in your empty battery and get a full battery in return. Cost: 3 dollars per change. By comparison, the daily cost of petrol is estimated at 4.5 dollars.
Another positive aspect of the STIMA model is that many jobs are created by the deliberate renunciation of self-service.
Now the question is how to build up a good enough network of battery exchange stations in Africa. And here too STIMA has a suitable solution. It is called STIMA SaaS.
With the help of an app, anyone who is interested in operating a battery exchange station can access the necessary know-how. Through this app, battery changing should also be easily feasible for people who have not been specially trained before.
The app also offers many other functions to help operators generate profit.
An important point is that the batteries have a long life. If the batteries do not last long enough and must be replaced every 3 years, the costs for the operators of the battery exchange stations would be too high to generate a sufficient profit.
As of today, there are about 300 riders taking up the STIMA model. By 2024, however, the number is expected to increase to up to 5000 and by 2026, 11 billion kilometers are expected to have been ridden on the climate-friendly electric motorbikes. Furthermore, it is expected that 770 million tons of CO2 will be saved by 2026 and that the cumulative amount saved by all riders will be at $250 million.
In my opinion, the STIMA model is ideal for combating several problems at once. The electric motors not only protect the environment, but also reduce costs for motorcyclists. In addition, the battery exchange stations create jobs. In the long run, this can only have advantages. The only requirement, however, is that the system becomes established in Africa and that many people switch to electric motorbikes. If this is not the case, I do not see much future in this model. The focus should therefore now be on convincing people of the STIMA system, not only as motorcyclists but also as battery changers. Because what is the point of having an electric motorbike if you can't change your battery anywhere?