Spiro adds 15,000 e-motorbikes in Togo and Benin
Spiro will add more than 15,000 electric motorbikes to its fleet in Togo and Benin. The company’s plans show mobility innovation is not just alive and kicking in East Africa, but also in the western part of the continent.
Think innovative, electric mobility in Africa, and the mind automatically drifts towards Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and other places in East Africa. But the announcement by Spiro that it will expand its fleet of e-motorbikes, as well as its stock of batteries and the number of its swap stations in its two West African markets shows that the trend is continent-wide.
Spiro aims to add at least 15,700 e-motorbikes, over 31,400 batteries and more than 1,000 swap stations to the existing fleet in Togo and Benin (pictured: street scene in Cotonou). The expansion, funded by Société Générale and other creditors, will add more than 100 new jobs in installation and technical support, and more than 3,700 in operations and maintenance. In accordance with Spiro’s gender equality commitments, at least 30% of the new jobs will be filled by women.
Spiro is a company with an interesting history, and potentially an even more interesting future. The current announcement marks only the second-biggest expansion this year for the company, whose main shareholder is the Africa Transformation and Industrialisation Fund (ATIF) in Abu Dhabi. Earlier this year, Spiro signed a framework agreement with Uganda to help introduce 140,000 e-motorcycles.
Spiro currently has 200 swap stations in Benin, 125 in Togo, and 30 in Rwanda, and employs 1,000 across those markets.
Three to two wheels
Founded in 2019 in India as M-Auto, the company initially specialized in retrofitting combustion-engine three-wheelers to electric vehicles. It was acquired by African mobility entrepreneurs looking for the right skillset, and started operations in Togo and Benin in May 2022. The company refocused on two- instead of three-wheelers, and on energy-as-a-service, including battery swapping in its basic offer.
That offer goes something like this. Riders hand in an old ICE motorcycle and get a brand-new Spiro-manufactured electric motorcycle in its place – no purchase payment required. Riders do have to pay a daily subscription of $5, but that includes maintenance, insurance, and two battery swaps per day (equalling 160 km range). For the drivers, that works out to about 20% cheaper per day than operating an ICE motorcycle. In other words: they’re $360 per year better off.
This attractive business model has great potential in Africa, home to more than 27 million ICE motorcycles (about 80% of which are used as taxis). Many of the operators, whether private or business, are increasingly unable to deal with the rising costs of maintenance and fuel.
Because they can produce cheaper outcomes, solutions like Spiro’s are powerful drivers for electrification across the continent. Spiro currently is the largest EV platform in Africa, with more than 30,000 electric motorcycles and scooters projected by the end of this year.
Spiro says its battery-swapping model is well suited for the African market. The company retains ownership of the batteries, charging them at its hubs ensures that they are managed in optimal conditions, and without overburdening the grid.
The company plans to operate in seven African countries by the end of this year, and to become the largest energy provider for Africa’s transport sector by 2025. The Spiro-designed motorcycles are manufactured in China, but the company is setting up its own assembly lines in Togo and Benin.
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