One of the biggest hurdles the electric vehicle industry must overcome is long charging times. While fast-chargers are now able to juice up batteries in a matter of minutes, this is still nowhere near as fast as it takes to refuel a gasoline tank. This is where the topic of swappable batteries comes into play, especially when it comes to electric two-wheelers.
In fact, in countries like Kenya, swappable batteries have paved the way for the next generation of mobility on two wheels. A recent article by Reuters explains that electric motorcycle adoption in the African country has skyrocketed in recent times due to the proliferation of battery swapping technology. Easily identifiable by their bright and vibrant colors, battery swapping stations are now scattered across Kenya's capital of Nairobi.
Indeed, this tech hits two birds with one stone—the first being long charging times. In fact, swapping out a battery can be done in a matter of seconds, notably quicker than refueling a gas-powered two-wheeler. On top of that, the issue of range anxiety is addressed, at least in the urban setting, as the number of swapping stations is increasing by the day.
Out of all the benefits brought about by electric motorcycles to the African economy, it stands to reason that the biggest benefit comes in the form cost savings in the granular level. You see, unlike the premium electric motorbikes we have in Europe and the U.S., electric motorbikes in Kenya are built precisely to satisfy the needs of the highly price sensitive market. According to Steve Juma, the co-founder of Ecobodaa, one of the fast-growing electric two-wheeler companies in the region, battery swapping tech saves a lot of money for commuters, as acquiring a second battery to extend range could effectively double the cost of the bike.
Ecobodaa has 50 test electric motorcyles on the road now and plans to have 1,000 by the end of 2023 which it sells for about $1,500 each—roughly the same price as a barebones gas-powered motorbike. The company is able to sell them for so cheap because the batteries are not included in the sale price, and can therefore be easily acquired by visiting a nearby battery swapping station. Other companies, such as the Kenyan-Swedish startup Roam, are pushing the envelope of design and technology, which, when looked at from the other end of the spectrum, could pave the way for expansion in the premium segment.