Clean energy: Rwanda goes electric with locally made motorcycles


For 12 years, Didier Ndabahariye has been transporting passengers through the streets of Kigali. He is one of thousands of motorcycle taxi drivers, known locally as motos.

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“The first few days things weren’t going so well because I wasn’t used to riding electric motorcycles and the bike would stop sometimes.

“But I kept working and soon learned a lot about how the bike works and how to ride it.

He is one of 60 riders riding an electric motorcycle from the Rwandan company Ampersand.

There are around 25,000 motorbike taxis operating in the Rwandan capital

“Now I love motorcycles – an electric motorcycle can last a long time without a problem, unlike a petrol engine – and it runs well, it is very smooth to ride.”

The start-up Ampersand is behind this change and hopes that within the next five years almost all motorcycles in Rwanda will be electric.

It’s an ambitious dream – there are around 25,000 motorbike taxis in operation in Kigali, some of which run for up to 10 hours a day, often covering hundreds of kilometers daily.

“Motorcycles make up more than half of the vehicles in this part of the world,” says Josh Whale, Ampersand’s chief executive.

“Their simple engines are not fitted with the expensive emission-reducing technologies found in modern cars or motorbikes in northern countries. pollution, lots of carbon dioxide.

The driver of a motorcycle taxi is reflected in one of the rear view mirrors of his vehicle in Kigali, Rwanda

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“In Rwanda, in one year, drivers spend on gasoline more than the cost of a new motorcycle. We showed that we could offer them an alternative in the same style as their current motorcycle, [which] costs less to the driver. purchase, cheaper to power and cheaper to maintain.”

Ampersand claims the savings on fuel and maintenance can double a driver’s income.

Ampersand says its electric motorcycles cost less to buy and maintain than existing gas-powered motorcycles

There are an estimated five million motorbikes on the roads of East Africa.

Ampersand is more than just a technology platform.

Each motorcycle has around 150 parts, which are assembled in Kigali. Importantly, the batteries are specially designed and prototyped by Ampersand engineers in Rwanda.

Ampersand assembles and maintains the fleet of electric motorcycles

“At the moment, we are also a motorcycle business, with spare parts and maintenance. But we would be happy to work with the existing large petrol motorcycle manufacturers on the vehicle side.

The company has set up battery swap stations – where drivers swap their empty batteries for charged ones – and five of these are already operational around Kigali.

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There will be a loss of fuel tax revenue, but the benefits include switching to locally produced energy sources, lower fuel import costs and job creation if assembly takes place locally.

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