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No fuel needed! Zembo electric bikes excite Kampala boda boda lovers

Booming Kampala populations, fueling congested roads, where everyone competes for space, along with the congested public transport systems (taxis) – has led to the growth in popularity of motorcycles – with their affordability, ease of maintenance, speed and adaptability to local roads e.g. gridlocked traffic and mud paths of informal settlements.

Motorcycle taxis, locally known as boda bodas – account for over 40% of the trips in Kampala, and have become one of the biggest drivers of the economy.

Whilst they serve as a much needed form of transport and are essential to access social amenities such as health care, school, or a job – they are one of the largest causes of carbon emissions and pollution in Kampala, where air quality is rated amongst the worst of all cities globally!

Uganda represents one of the largest importers of motorcycles in East Africa, with over 600,000 boda bodas. In Kampala alone, there are currently over 1,150,000 drivers earning their daily income by driving a conventional boda boda, serving a population of over 3 million people.

In 2017, the two founders, Daniel Dreher and Etienne Saint Serin came up with a motorcycle and battery solution that is developed and designed for the needs of the Ugandan population, especially for those at the bottom of the pyramid.

The motorcycle parts are imported from China but designed and assembled locally, to create vehicles that are reliable, durable, comfortable, clean and automatic (easier to handle) – this comes in handy where motorcycles carry all manner of loads.

With safe and high capacity lithium batteries emitting no CO2, no particles, no pollution. The batteries are recharged in 3-4 hours with solar energy at charging stations across the city, where a full battery charge can last 50-80km.

Their battery swap model means that drivers do not need to buy vehicle batteries, or wait around while they recharge. Drivers can rent batteries and replace a discharged battery for a newly charged one in under 2 minutes at the various battery stations.

The writer, of this story on Monday bumped on the green bike as he was leaving office headed back home.

He stopped this guy knowing that he was riding a normal bike.

“With my broken Luganda, I greeted the rider, Ssebo gyebale? (Well done), He responded calmly and asked ogenda wa? (Where are you going?), Najjera, I answered. Mpayo enkumi biri (2,000/-). I sat. I later realized that the bike was not making any sound, I asked him, are you on a free-gear? (There was no way the bike could be on a free-gear when we were climbing a hill, I was shocked by that) He said ‘no’. I later saw a digital, LCD speedometer with a battery percentage on his dashboard. When we reached my destination, I asked him, which bike is this? He told, ‘Zembo, its new in Uganda.’ I gave him 5,000/- and asked him to keep the rest because of my excitement on the nature of the bike,”

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