Ampersand, a Rwandan electric motorbike start-up, has successfully rolled out electric-powered motorbikes with battery swap stations and is pioneering the transformation that intends to ensure that practically all motorbikes in Rwanda are electric within the next five years.
It’s a lofty goal, given that Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, has over 25,000 motorcycles, some of which work up to 10 hours a day and traverse hundreds of kilometres every day. “In this part of the world, motorcycles account for more than half of all vehicles,” explains Ampersand CEO Josh Whale.
“Their simple engines lack the kind of expensive emissions-reduction technology found in modern vehicles and motorcycles in the global north.” Meanwhile, these motorbikes run for over 100 kilometres every day, which is a lot of pollution and carbon [dioxide].” He added that, In Rwanda, drivers spend more on gasoline each year than on a new motorcycle. We’ve demonstrated that we can provide an alternative in the same style as their present motorcycle that is less expensive to acquire, power, and maintain.” With an estimated five million motorcycles on East Africa’s roads, Ampersand and its competitors may save a lot of CO2 if they gain a large part of the market.
The start-up company is much more than a software platform, as it provides the option to assemble motorcycles, install batteries, and charging stations. Each motorcycle is made up of approximately 150 parts, which are assembled in Kigali. The battery packs, in particular, have been carefully built and prototyped by Ampersand experts in Rwanda. They are then built outside of Rwanda and shipped back for final assembly by professionals. Ampersand presently employs 73 people at its Rwandan motorbike manufacturing, which is expanding and transferring to a new site this month.
“We also happen to be a motorcycle firm for the time being, with spare parts and servicing.” On the vehicle side, though, we’d be happy to collaborate with the major existing petrol motorcycle manufacturers. Whales explained.
He further added that “We are still a small organization, and we want to move rapidly – as the climate crisis demands – and take on some difficult tasks. So, where we can, we’re eager to link up with huge existing companies,” The business has set up five battery swap stations around Kigali, where drivers may switch their low batteries for recharged ones.
Ampersand previously received $9 million from the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to expand its operations in Rwanda and Kenya in November 2021. The DFC financing is the bank’s first for electric mobility, indicating growing investor confidence in Africa’s burgeoning e-mobility market. According to officials, the $9 million loans will enable Ampersand to increase the number of electric bikes in Rwanda and Kenya to tens of thousands by the end of 2022.
The loan follows a $4 million Series A investment Ampersand received in 2021, which was backed by Silicon Valley investors Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF) and TotalEnergies. The company began operations in 2019 with a seed capital of around $600,000.
In 2018, it got investment and support from FactorE Ventures, the Rwanda Green Fund, USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures, Shell Foundation, the UK FCDO’s Frontier Technology Livestreaming fund, the New Zealand Government, and a loan from Blue Haven Initiative’s Catalytic Fund.
Electric mobility is becoming increasingly popular around the world because of its environmental benefits and long-term cost-effectiveness. The company is betting on the industry’s growing popularity around the world, which has made it easier for start-ups to raise finance as a result of recent advancements.
Electric mobility is becoming increasingly popular around the world because of its environmental benefits and long-term cost-effectiveness. The company is betting on the industry’s growing popularity around the world, which has made it easier for start-ups to raise finance as a result of recent advancements. “This is a brand-new and interesting industry. There is a great deal of interest and investment in climate change, as well as a strong belief that electric mobility will play a significant role in the future and will be financially feasible “In an earlier interview, Whale stated. The company has previously stated its willingness to form collaborations with other companies, such as partnering with gas station operators to put up battery swap stations and motorbike manufacturers.
Estimates reveal that converting all Rwandan motorbikes to electric in the future years will require a $75 million investment with enormous returns for investors. Ampersand’s entry into Africa has only been the first stage; the corporation is now expanding into neighbouring Kenya and other African countries. While there are obstacles to rolling out electric vehicles across Africa, such as a lack of specialized skills, apprehension from venture capitalists, and interrupted supply chains, Whale believes that Africa can be a leader in the worldwide transformation to e-mobility.
He claims that the amount of operating capital required is “easily realistic” and that world governments could contribute to speed up implementation. “We intend to demonstrate that the electric age has arrived – for everyone – and that clean mobility isn’t something that will just trickle down to the global south decades later. Rather, it is now cost-effective, fundable, and investable.”