Swedish-Kenyan technology company, Opibus, has introduced the first Electric Vehicle (EV) bus to Kenya, marking the start-up’s first step towards mass production for the wider African market. Having initiated a pilot project in preparation for the commercial launch of EV buses to the east-African country by mid-2022, Opibus aims to extend its services across Africa by the end of 2023.
To ensure that the product is optimized to the requirements of the region, Opibus will test 10 of their buses in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi, with the company’s Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, Albin Wilson, stating, “Once we get this valuable feedback, we will make the required changes and get all our production partners lined up to scale the roll out as rapidly as possible.”
“The first electric bus is set to be launched commercially mid this year,” announced Denis Wakaba, Opibus Project Coordinator for Public Transport. “Following this, the platform will be tested at scale in commercial deployment of ten buses during the second half of 2022. In doing so, we ensure that we gather valuable feedback to continue the development of the product for an optimized market fit.”
Serving to reduce carbon emissions and the cost of transportation, the introduction of EV vehicles to the Kenyan transit industry is a first major step in Opibus’ vision to support the provision of locally designed and developed EV vehicles that can be produced on a commercial scale for the pan-African market.
Opibus is currently constructing the required supporting infrastructure, such as public charging stations, and has already converted over 170 vehicles from petrol and diesel engines to ones powered by electricity. The simpler design of EV buses has resulted in lower maintenance costs – approximately 80% lower than its diesel-powered equivalent – and lower running costs – which are 50% lower than diesel-powered vehicles. Converting a vehicle from petrol and diesel engines to electric is a costly procedure, however, with figures nearing $39,000 per vehicle.
The company recently opened a funding round closure at the United Nations Conference of the Parties, raising $7.5 million for its operations. Opibus has stated that each EV bus will cost approximately $100,000.
The bus is being designed and developed alongside local manufacturing partners. The company is employing an estimated 100 employees, 40% of whom are women. Local development is key to reducing the cost of transitioning to EVs for operators, while presenting the opportunity for Opibus to maintain a competitive advantage and meet local market requirements.
Capable of attaining a top speed of 85km/h and featuring a battery capacity of 121 kWh, the EV bus consumes approximately 225 kW of power, with one battery capable of mobilizing the vehicle for a distance of up to 120km. The EV bus is expected to considerably lower the cost of importing petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles, while reducing maintenance services by up to 80%.