Part 2/3: What Customers Say About Electric Motorcycle Batteries

The battery is the key(est) to the entire ecosystem of electric mobility, and its management is crucial for the success of electric motorcycles.
A technician pictured assembling the Zembo e-motorcycle, adding its battery on to it. PHOTO: Zembo A technician pictured assembling the Zembo e-motorcycle, adding its battery on to it. PHOTO: Zembo
<center>A technician pictured assembling the Zembo e-motorcycle, adding its battery on to it. PHOTO: Zembo</center>

It is now easier to find electric motorcycles (e-bikes) on the roads of Kampala, with at least one in every ten motorcycles being electric — a number that is growing by the day. However, when an e-bike is put on the market, it does not come with a battery. Why? The value it comes with.

So, the e-bike and the battery that powers it are priced separately, something that articulates how much of an asset the battery is.

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.

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If you haven’t read our first part, here it is — PART 1/3: What the manufacturers do…

Customer Perspectives

In part 2;

We look into what the e-bike customers say about the products on the market. These are the ones that can tell you the full story of the value that the battery adds to the functionality of the machine.

Fahad Kakaire, a Spiro Veo customer whose daily trade is in the boda-boda industry, says he has saved so much money since he got his e-bike. We talked to him while on a ride with him on this bike, and he fully acknowledges that there is nothing more advantageous than running a vehicle that offers a smoother ride with instant torque and power, reduced maintenance requirements, and zero direct emissions.

“People always look at fuel on the normal internal combustion engine bikes but forget about the maintenance,” says Kakaire. “The oil you need to change regularly, the valve adjustments you need to monitor, and other engine concerns always result in more expenditure at the end of every week.”

With an e-bike, all you need to ensure is that the battery is sustainable, and you are good to go as its motors run easily with minimal checks. “I don’t even wait for it to get used up,” he brags to our writer, adding, “Once I sense that I will need more battery for the next run of errands, I just visit a swap station and refill. After all, it costs much less which I can recoup in four-fold with my work.”

Spiro e-bike. PHOTO: Spiro
Spiro e-bike. PHOTO: Spiro

This is because Spiro gives its customers the flexibility to swap batteries at their convenience without worrying about being overcharged. This is especially useful for those with unpredictable travel patterns or varying daily mileage.

Kakaire states that the Veo’s battery is uniquely built to offer extended use beyond its capacity. A user can run an extra 5-6 kilometres if the charge runs out, and even after that, it is still capable of doing basic errands such as smartphone charging and bike light support.

Jimmy Lugaaju, another Spiro Veo customer, adds his voice to the benefits, stating that given the uniqueness of the battery in an e-bike, it becomes hard for theft to thrive in this era.

“If my bike gets stolen, all I need to do is to report to the manufacturer about it, and the battery will be traced in an instant,” Lugaaju states.

The basic logic behind this is that each battery in an electric motorcycle is actively monitored and can only work with a trigger made at the swap station. If the battery is reported as stolen, it is easy to deactivate the bike from wherever it is and locate it instantly.

Challenges and Improvements

However, not everyone understands the battery packaging in e-bikes. While an average boda-boda rider needs to do at least 3 swaps a day to fulfill their errands, there is a section of riders that find this more than necessary.

Sam, a delivery personnel within Kampala who recently purchased an e-bike to boost his business, feels that the numerous swaps wipe out the advantages that the vehicle could have over its fuel-powered counterpart.

“I love everything about the electric bike apart from the many swaps I do every day. I feel like in my line of business, I should be able to swap once and do more — which will make me forget about fuel and its charges,” Sam laments.

What Sam forgets is that a full battery charge can only last up to 80 kilometres, which he admits he always triples and sometimes exceeds daily. Lugaaju, who also admits to running long journeys throughout his day, suggests that the battery capacity should be upgraded to accommodate up to at least 150 kilometres on a single charge.

James Obarowski, the CEO at Zembo. COURTESY PHOTO
James Obarowski, the CEO at Zembo. COURTESY PHOTO

In the first part of this conversation, James Obarowski, the CEO at Zembo, stated that it is ideal to strike a balance when making these bike batteries to ensure sufficient performance without excessive battery consumption.

“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 kilometre you drive,” said Obarowski. “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.”

Financing Simplified

Each of the drivers we spoke to has obtained their e-bike on loan, which has made the overall financing process simpler. With vehicle financing institutions showing increasing interest in the electric motorcycle industry, ownership of these eco-friendly vehicles is becoming more accessible and closer to the doorstep of aspiring riders and entrepreneurs.

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One key player making a significant difference in this space is MOGO Uganda, an asset financing company that provides affordable financing options for boda boda riders, smartphone users, and car owners. By offering flexible financing solutions tailored to the needs of various customer segments, MOGO is enabling more people to access and own electric motorcycles, which is crucial for the growth and adoption of this sustainable mode of transportation.

MOGO Uganda, an asset financing company that provides affordable financing options for boda boda riders, smartphone users, and car owners. Pictured: MOGO employees at their offices in Uganda. PHOTO: MOGO
MOGO Uganda, an asset financing company that provides affordable financing options for boda boda riders, smartphone users, and car owners. Pictured: MOGO employees at their offices in Uganda. PHOTO: MOGO

Nicholas Akatwijuka, a Zembo motorcycle rider, attests to the life-changing impact of MOGO’s loan services. He says that the loan made his dream of starting a sustainable business a reality, as he came to Kampala with limited capital but was able to acquire an electric motorcycle through MOGO’s affordable financing options.

“The loan with MOGO Uganda made my dream come true,” Akatwijuka shares with our writer. “I came to Kampala with little hope of starting up a sustainable business with the little capital I had on me. But thanks to MOGO’s financing, I was able to obtain a Zembo electric motorcycle, which has transformed my life and business prospects.”

With the financial burden eased, Akatwijuka is now able to set aside more savings every day and envision a brighter future for himself and his family. He hopes to expand his business further and explore new opportunities made possible by the reliable and cost-effective transportation provided by his electric motorcycle.

Part 3: Battery swapping and costs involved on an electric motorcycle

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

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