Ampersand and BYD clutch to rev up Africa's e-bike production

The broader context of this partnership is the urgent need to de-carbonise transport systems in the continent

Ampersand and BYD clutch to rev up Africa's e-bike production
Ampersand plans to make 40,000 electric bikes by the end of 2026

BYD, the Chinese firm that in the past year became the world’s largest EV maker, has tied up with Ampersand, a Kigali-based e-motorbike taxi pioneer. Both parties want to work on advanced battery technologies and double down on the production of electric two-wheelers to further push Africa’s transition to cleaner transportation. 

It is no secret that, due to lack of needed infrastructure, Africa’s electric vehicle economy is getting off to a start not on four wheels, but two—and possibly three. Given the proliferation of motorcycles in many of the continent’s markets, companies are shooting to capitalize on these shared clean mobility ambitions. 

On its part, Ampersand, considered a pioneer on this front, has plans to make 40,000 electric bikes by the end of 2026. Kigali, where it operates, has more motorbikes than cabs in New York, and it wants to make the fleet entirely electric. Involving BYD, known for durable, cost-effective and accessible lithium-iron-phosphate e-bikes, would boost both the quantity and quality of its offerings. 

Ampersand’s local knowledge and existing charging infrastructure, particularly in Rwanda and Kenya, comes to the table. The company’s CEO, Josh Whale, emphasized that the collaboration with BYD is a major milestone in providing sustainable and cost-effective EV solutions for the mass market. 

“BYD’s world-leading battery cells and manufacturing scale, combined with Ampersand’s deep customer insight and technical product knowledge will help fast-track the electrification of Africa’s commercial motorcycles,” Whale said. 

The broader context of this partnership is the urgent need to de-carbonise African transport systems. With over 30 million commercial motorcycles in use across the continent, primarily powered by internal combustion engines, there is a vast market for electrification. The transition is not only environmentally beneficial but also economically advantageous for riders. 

Backed by a cumulative $34.4 million from Beyond Capital, Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF) and other marquee investors, Ampersand’s current fleet of electric motorcycles offers significant savings on fuel and maintenance, reducing annual costs for riders by about 45%.

BYD’s association is indicative of its pivot towards the African market amidst rising tariffs and restrictions on Chinese EV imports in Western markets. It aligns with the increasing emphasis on sustainable development and clean energy in the region, where countries like Kenya are already leaders in generating clean electricity, providing a conducive environment for the adoption of electric vehicles.

The Boda Belt in East Africa, where motorcycles are a primary mode of commercial mobility, stands to benefit the most. The introduction of electric motorbikes in this region could transform urban mobility, reduce pollution, and contribute to economic growth by lowering operational costs for riders.

BYD’s global expertise combined with Ampersand’s local insights and infrastructure sets a robust foundation for achieving these ambitious production targets. Partnering would enhance Ampersand’s capacity to meet the rising demand for electric motorcycles, ensuring that they are not only plentiful but also reliable and efficient.

Leveraging advanced battery technology and scaling up production, BYD and Ampersand are poised to drive substantial progress in the electrification of Africa’s commercial motorcycles.

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