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Part 1/3: Manufacturers’ Valuation of Electric Motorcycle Batteries

This is a three part article on how and why the battery is the most valuable piece of an electric motorcycle.

Story Highlights
  • Electric motorcycles have their batteries designed to withstand the unique challenges of the Ugandan market, such as frequent knocks, heavy rain, and high temperatures.
  • Spiro's onboarding process and ongoing support help riders adopt optimal riding styles, maximizing their battery's range and longevity.
  • Zembo has chosen LFP batteries as a type of chemistry that allows us to get overall a lower cost for every unit of power.
  • GOGO Electric's innovative battery pack design iteratively developed to suit the East African market, aims to maximize efficiency and savings for riders.

Fifty-five percent! This is the ideal value that a battery partakes of an electric motorcycle. Yet, all the other parts of this package are equally unique and specially assembled to make the final product.

In Uganda, the electric vehicle (EV) revolution is on the runway and the innovation around it is very impressive. From home-grown products to new amazing imports on the market, the future of the industry is sounding bright. With numerous players exhibiting their prowess in the e-mobility space over the years, the one party that always stands to win is the customer.

In this three-part article, we spoke to three electric motorcycle company top executives — from GOGO Electric, Zembo Motorcycles, and Spiro Uganda — who are at the forefront of innovation, visited several swap stations, and interacted with riders on the value of the battery, how it works, how swapping is done, the economics involved, and the bike customer sentiments.

Part 1: We begin with how much value the manufacturers attach to the battery and how they approach the packaging of the product when putting it on the market.

Designing for efficiency and durability

Jakob Hornbach, the CEO and CFO at GOGO Electric, emphasizes the importance of educating riders on proper bike operation.

“The most important thing is to explain to riders how the electric bike is different from an ICE bike in terms of operations. All riders go through an onboarding process and we teach them how to operate them correctly,” explains Hornbach. “Operating the electric bikes wrongly leads to a high energy consumption and therefore less savings.”

GOGO Electric’s innovative battery pack design iteratively developed to suit the East African market, aims to maximize efficiency and savings for riders. Hornbach adds that their innovation lies more in the battery pack design that has been iteratively developed by them to suit the market needs.

“Operating the electric bike correctly leads to about 40% savings on energy and maintenance,” he says. “We use Lithium-Ion battery technology that has been around since 1991. All pretty standard.”

When it comes to simplicity, Zembo Motorcycles do not differ much from GOGO’s approach. James Obarowski, the CEO at Zembo, highlights this when explaining the company’s focus on battery chemistry and bike setup.

“Zembo has chosen LFP batteries as a type of chemistry that allows us to get overall a lower cost for every unit of power. So that means a lower cost per kilometer driven for the end user,” he states. “Zembo also carefully balances the bike’s power to ensure sufficient performance without excessive battery consumption.”

He continues “Of course, we could make the bike faster and more powerful, but then you’ll get a shorter range which means you’ll spend more money for every kilometer you drive. So we have to balance this out, make sure you have enough power to do the job but not more because just like a fuel bike with a big engine will consume a lot of fuel.” “So it’s the same thing for electric bikes. We have to think about the power of the bike to make sure it can do the job but not too much consumption of the battery,” Obarowski adds.

Pictured a rider in Uganda carrying a passenger on an electric motorcycle by Zembo. More than 90% of e-motorcycles sold in sub-Saharan Africa are imported from China and India and are not built for African conditions. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Pictured a rider in Uganda carrying a passenger on an electric motorcycle by Zembo. More than 90% of electric motorcycles sold in sub-Saharan Africa are imported from China and India and are not built for African conditions. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Gaurav Anand, the Country Head at Spiro Uganda, stresses the importance of rider education and continuous engagement.

“Proper riding habits can greatly extend the life and efficiency of the battery. For instance, riders are taught to avoid rapid acceleration and hard braking, which can drain the battery faster. This education is provided during onboarding and through continuous engagement to ensure riders get the maximum range and longevity from their batteries,” he notes.

Spiro’s onboarding process and ongoing support help riders adopt optimal riding styles, maximizing their battery’s range and longevity.


SEE ALSO: KARAA AFRICA CEO, MUTABAZI DEBUNKS SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ELECTRIC VEHICLES


Monitoring and maintenance

All three companies prioritize battery monitoring and maintenance to ensure optimal performance and safety.

Zembo’s real-time monitoring system allows them to track battery health and trigger alerts for any issues.

“One of the reasons we do battery swapping is to make sure that the battery is charged properly and that we’re able to do any maintenance if we need to on the batteries. So we monitor them in real-time so every bike when it’s out on a motorcycle or whether it’s in a swapping station we’re able to see the health of the battery,” Obarowski explains.

The Zembo team does real-time analysis as well and if they see any health issue, there’s an automatic alert that’s triggered to the battery lab, for which the battery is set aside and brought back for repair or adjustments.

Spiro takes a meticulous approach to battery inspection, assessing the state of charge, internal resistance, and overall health of the battery cells.

Every time a battery is brought back to the swap station, it undergoes a thorough inspection period to assess its ability to hold charge as expected, ensuring it meets our performance standards. This includes checking the state of charge, internal resistance, and overall health of the battery cells,” Anand states.

He adds that any signs of damage or wear and tear are addressed promptly. This meticulous approach guarantees that each battery remains safe and reliable for our customers.

Designing for the African market

One key advantage for all the models on the market, manufactured by the three companies, is the ability to fit in the Ugandan and African markets without any block.

Electric motorcycles have their batteries designed to withstand the unique challenges of the Ugandan market, such as frequent knocks, heavy rain, and high temperatures.

“We know a boda driver in Uganda, he gets knocked like once a week. We often have heavy rain and maybe it goes underwater. The bike, you have very, very high heat. We have a hot day and it gets very, very hot. All these three conditions can be difficult on a battery. So we’re always thinking about how to manage this,” Obarowski acknowledges.

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Zembo’s V2 battery is designed to perform well in these conditions, with a strong, watertight casing. “It was designed to perform well and not get too hot, even if it’s really hot outside. If you knock it, it will not have any bad effect,” he adds.

Spiro leverages advanced telematics and IoT technology to monitor and manage their fleet of electric motorcycles.

“The IT sensors embedded in our batteries and motorcycles provide detailed insights into temperature, voltage, and overall health of the battery. This continuous monitoring ensures that any potential issues are identified and addressed before they become critical,” Anand explains.

By analyzing this data, Spiro can offer personalized advice to riders and predict maintenance needs, ensuring optimal battery performance.

Hornbach, the CEO and CFO at GOGO Electric hints that there is a plan for them to reduce battery cost, increase battery life & safety, increase energy density, and increase re-usability/recyclability through several initiatives.

PART 2: What the customers say…

Written in collaboration with Douglas Kikonyogo (X, @doug_kikonyogo)

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