Transforming mobility with electric two and three-wheelers

Three persons are sitting on their motorcycles
Launch of the IKI funded pilot in Kenya with rangers from Karura forest

Shifting the fleet of two and three-wheelers to locally generated green electricity has the potential to generate significant benefits in mitigating climate change, reducing air pollution, decreasing energy cost, and hence cost of mobility.

In tandem with public transport systems small fleet vehicles such as two and three-wheelers are playing a big role in satisfying the demand for mobility in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). The increasing demand for mobility is a significant driver of energy consumption growth in these countries.

Today, it is estimated that about 25 million non-pedal-powered two and three-wheelers are on the road in Africa, 400 million in Asia and the Pacific and about 60 million in Latin America. Altogether, they account for about 10% of all transport-related energy use (including road, rail, air and shipping) in non-OECD countries. However, in countries such as Kenya, fuel used by two and three-wheelers is estimated to be almost equal to fuel used by passenger cars. The reason behind this is that motorcycle fleets are growing rapidly, and their use is intense with daily driven distances exceeding 100km on average. In addition, the motorcycle technology sold in these countries is outdated as it is based on carburetor engines with no emission control and hence showing fuel consumption of 3 liters of gasoline per 100km or more.

Project supported development of e-mobilty policies and pilot projects

The IKI funded project on “Integrating Electric 2&3 Wheelers into Existing Urban Transport Modes in Developing and Transitional Countries” marked a steppingstone in this transition through supporting the development of fleet inventories, e-mobility policies and pilot projects in four countries in East Africa(Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopiy and recently Burundi) and five countries in Southeast Asia (Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam and recently Malaysia and Indonesia). 

Starting its development in 2015, the electric two and three-wheelers were not a popular idea outside China in the Asia and Pacific Region and were hardly known in Africa. The project allowed for the quantification of conventional two and three-wheeler fleets, fuel consumed, and greenhouse gases emitted to set the baseline for what could be mitigated. It enabled the development of the first-ever standards and regulations concerning the local manufacturing, import and use of electric two and three-wheelers in East Africa, and helped with advancing technical standards for electric two and three-wheelers and their charging and battery swapping infrastructure in Southeast Asia. Most importantly, the project allowed for the implementation of pilots, showing the use of electric two and three-wheelers to decision-makers in the government, private sector, as well as the larger public.

Global Electric Mobility Programme

What started in 2017 as a six-country e-mobility project funded by the IKI has now evolved to be UNEP’s Global Electric Mobility Programme. Together with development banks, UN agencies, the International Energy Agency and other development partners, the progamme is now active in 60 LMICs, implementing more than USD 130 million in grants.

Electric two and three-wheelers are on their way to becoming a mainstream mobility option in many Asian countries and are just about to revolutionize the taxi sector in Africa.

Kenya and Uganda, both early-on participants in the IKI project are key players for e-mobility fleets in East Africa. In Kenya many companies are providing a nexus of mobility, energy and financing services. They are offering electric motorcycles to “boda-boda” drivers (the Kenyan name for motorcycle taxi) for app-based taxi services (mobility), with access to proprietary battery swapping networks (energy) embedded within pay-as-you-go schemes to finance the vehicles. Uganda is home to one of the largest electric motorcycle fleets in the region. In both countries, the private sector has shown a great interest in not only assembling electric two and three-wheelers but also electric buses.

A woman is standing next to a electric scooter.
Launch of the IKI funded pilot in Thailand with EGAT (Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand)

Southeast Asian countries are seeking to become regional hubs for electric vehicle use and manufacturing. The IKI project supported the development of policies and technical standards at the national level and helped creating awareness through piloting electric two and three-wheelers in Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. A technical report on the harmonization of electric two-wheeler specifications developed in partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) suggests improved cooperation at the sub-regional level to increase competitiveness of the sector.

The IKI-funded project was among the first of its kind to bring affordable e-mobility solutions to LMICs and to create awareness of the potential of electric two and three-wheelers in East Africa and Southeast Asia. It continues to play a key role in paving the way for other climate financing mechanisms and development financiers to invest in the technology.

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