Innovation That Matters

Electric motorcycles backed by solar battery-swapping

Mobility & Transport

This startup is building a new model for affordable electric mobility

Spotted: In Uganda, affordable public transport is scarce, leading many to instead rely on ‘boda bodas’, or motorcycle taxis, for city travel. These quick and convenient rides are set to become even more popular, increasing concerns about the rising urban air pollution in East Africa. Zembo Motorcycles, a Ugandan company, is addressing this by offering an electric alternative, providing a solution for green transportation.

The startup’s e-motorcycles operate on a convenient pay-as-you-go system, offering around 200 kilometres of range. When the battery runs out, riders don’t have to wait for a recharge. Instead, they head to one of Zembo’s battery swap stations and, within minutes, they exchange the empty battery for a fully charged one. These swap stations are powered by solar energy or the national grid, which is 92 per cent renewable in Uganda, making the model eco-friendly and efficient.

With boda bodas serving 60 per cent of the population, 600,000 self-employed drivers face the instability of fluctuating fuel prices. And cutting out the reliance on fuel not only reduces the costs for drivers but also reduces carbon emissions. In fact, if all the boda bodas were electric, 100 million tonnes of CO2 would be saved every year, the startup claims.

Since its founding in 2020, Zembo has sold or leased more than 200 e-motorcycle taxis, set up 25 charging stations, and averaged 10,000 battery swaps per month in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. By mid-2024, the project aims to have over 1,500 electric boda bodas available for purchase or lease, with substantial growth planned for the future.

Written By: Georgia King

Email: contact@zem.bo

Website: zem.bo

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