California-based BILITI Electric Inc. is a mobility company that offers convenient and eco-friendly transportation solutions. Their three-wheeler Taskman models are undergoing a scale-up with manufacturing in India, providing fresh stock of last-mile vehicles for delivery companies looking to electrify. With a range of 100km, payload of 500kg and top-speed of 50km/h, the Taskman offers a compelling solution for transporting freight.

Crucial to BILITI's technology is their SmartSwapp system - batteries a common among all vehicles so can quickly be swapped out at charging points. This saves couriers time, providing a re-charging timeout that's less than conventional fuelling with gas. As well as enabling reduced carbon emissions, BILITI's electric-first approach also makes fleet management easier, with diagnostics forecasting maintenance needs in advance of time.

The first BILITI vehicle hit Kenyan roads on 1st July 2022, active in Nairobi and neighbouring counties.

In this interview, Head of Operations (Kenya) Isaiah Omondi outlines progress in Kenya and what's in store for the market - one of 15 for BILITI.

You started a partnership with delivery company JUMIA in October 2022. How has that gone and what have you learned?
Yes, we were able to work with JUMIA from the start. We first onboarded four drivers to involve the four units. Over a period of four months, the pilot was a success - drivers were able to carry out successive deliveries using the Taskman. The pilot also included one woman driver, demonstrating how the technology can open access to employment to a job role typically carried out by men in Kenya.

We learned that the vehicles have a range of 110Km and that gave us a sufficient range within a radius of 30km around Nairobi and the neighbouring counties. So we charged the vehicle once a day and would run a whole day deliveries. The delivery agents (drivers) were able to gradually grow from 15 drops to 30 drops a day. The amounted to coverage of an average of 50km per day from each vehicle, with a 70% success rate of deliveries. A full charge cost only ksh150 per vehicle.

How are vehicles charging their batteries?
We haven't built SmartSwapp in Kenya. We only have the normal charging at our offices, with clients doing the same at their facilities. With the market showing potential, there is collaboration with other EV companies and partners to set up SmartSwapp station base if a threshold of e-vehicles is reached.

How does the mobile cloud improve the vehicle management experience for customers?
By monitoring the battery performance, the data enable us understand the vehicle behaviour and also being able to track movement remotely without interrupting the driver. For security we are able to lock the battery remotely make the vehicle more secure. We are able to analyse our routine maintenance for both the vehicle and the battery.

What challenges have you experienced in Kenya, those unique to the market?

Cost: Most people want the price cheap as opposed to affordable or a calculated investment.

Government Legislation: EVs are still in their infancy in Kenya, so the government is slowly setting up the policies and standards that allow the adaptability of EV in the market. But with the recent progress we hope that that can support in having more EVs introduced in the market. 

Knowledge about EVs: Most people interested have little know how of EVs as a vehicle type, so awareness of EVs from both the technical and consumer acquisition needs to ease and accelerate the adoption.

Financing: This has also been a challenge in that some of the financing stake holders are not fully conversant with the EV. They don’t understand most of the components in EV and so their commitment is inconsistent.

Lack of incentives: Most companies are self-funded so don't meet the capitation for incentives, which makes it hard to access support from the government and investors. 

What goals do you have for 2024-25?

  1. Increase the sales of the 3-wheeler Taskman within the East Africa market. 
  2. Collaboration with various local and international companies.
  3. Set up an assembly plant within the region.
  4. Develop last-mile delivery by introducing the electric 3-wheeler to existing logistic companies.
  5. Introduce the passenger electric 3-wheeler to major towns and cities in the region.

What three things do you need in order to accelerate growth in Kenya? 

  1. Policy updates
  2. Government incentives 
  3. Awareness of EVs across Kenya 
  4. Capacity development
  5. Friendly and flexible financial models that support acquisition of EVs