Rwandan startup Ampersand begins e-moto trials

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Rwandan electric vehicle startup Ampersand has begun trialling electric motorcycle taxis (e-motos), which it claims are more environmentally friendly, outperform incumbent bikes, and make drivers more money.

Following 2.5 years of research and development, Ampersand is testing four different e-moto models, specifically for motorcycle taxi drivers.

The initial e-moto trials show an average 65 km range per charge and a top speed of over 80 km/h. The electric motor gives the e-moto greater torque and carrying power, with it outperforming incumbent 125cc petrol bikes on speed, climbing and acceleration tests.

“This may be the world’s first truly mass-market electric vehicle that’s cheaper and better than its petrol counterpart. The biggest opportunity for kicking off a global mass-market electric vehicle revolution is not sedans for the middle classes of Europe or Japan, but inexpensive motorcycle taxis in Africa and other emerging markets,” said Ampersand founder Josh Whale.

Motorcycle taxi drivers in Kigali cover around 188 km per day, with motorcycle taxis indispensable to mass mobility across the continent. In East Africa alone, there are over three million people who earn their livelihood as drivers.

E-motos are calculated to generate a 75 per cent net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to petrol bikes. Per annum fuel savings are projected at upwards of US$900 per bike, more than doubling driver income.

Eng Coletha Ruhamya, director general of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority, said the country welcomed Ampersand’s efforts to develop clean and low carbon motorcycles.

“As electric motorcycles emit less CO2 than petrol motorcycles, they are the best solutions to air pollution currently affecting our environment,” Ruhamya said.

Final pricing is still confidential, but the e-moto will cost less than the current petrol incumbents. Ampersand’s turnkey solution will feature motorcycles, a network of charging stations, financing, and after-sales service. Following design and system modifications, the e-moto will be ready for commercial launch in Rwanda in late 2019.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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