Electric motorbikes save Nyakach fish from rot

MotorcycleA start up company specializing in designing and distributing hybrid-charging stations for electric motorcycles in South Nyakach is helping farmers and fishermen access markets in time while saving produce from going bad in an area struggling with poor road network.

Charles Ogingo, a mechanical engineer student at the University of Nairobi experienced first hand the pain the farmers were going through to access markets which sometimes were over 300 kilometres away. His start-up business was awarded a $100,000 Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge grant to bring a novel rural transportation solution to life.

Pfoofy Power and Lighting, founded by Charles in 2013, designs and distributes hybrid-charging stations for electric motorcycles - helping farmers and fisherman effectively bring produce to urban markets. “I look at life’s problems and try to find a way to solve them,” said Charles. He knew that finding a cost-effective, easy to operate solution would help make his project scalable and, most importantly, able to cope with the local infrastructure challenges.

He was inspired by similar business models already enjoying success in other parts of the world. Due to their low cost and easy operability, electric two-wheel motorbikes are a popular mode of transport in China. They are viewed as a more affordable and sustainable alternative to cars. The electric motorcycle or ‘plug-in motorbike’ is easy to maintain and derives its main source of power from electricity. It can be charged at any electrical terminal and the electricity is stored on board in a rechargeable battery.

But charging the electric motorcycles in areas that are off traditional power grids can be a challenge. So Charles developed a 10-kilowatt charging station that utilizes solar panels to power the motorbike’s batteries. When fully charged, the batteries provide enough power for driving 60 kilometres before switching to reserve fuel. It was this novel off-grid solution that helped Pfoofy secure grant funding through the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge. As a result, Pfoofy will be able to create two 10-kilowatt charging stations.

“In Kenya, it is difficult to raise funding for new projects. By winning the grant, I have been able to use the funds to bring the project to life,” said Charles. By offering improved transportation links between villages and urban markets, there is a real opportunity to help improve the livelihoods of subsistence farmers and fisherman. Pfoofy is set to roll out its first fleet of 40 shiny motorbikes in South Nyakach County by April, with 46 drivers who will offer a reliable taxi and delivery system to urban centres.

Through the Off-Grid Energy Challenge, GE in partnership with the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting entrepreneurs across Africa to come up with innovative solutions for off-grid energy.