By Prudence Minayo
The future is electric vehicles (EVs) and rightly so. As the rest of the world shifts from fossils fuels to clean energy in the transport sector, Africa is still lagging behind. Viju Patel was the first Kenyan to import an EV in Kenya. Then, Jit Bhattacharya visited Kenya in 2020 from Uganda. Founding an electric bus company in the country was not something he thought about.
Two months after landing in Kenya, the Covid pandemic struck. Most people were forced to work from home and Carbon (iv) oxide emissions into the atmosphere dropped significantly.
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“The few days when buses were not in operation gave us a glimpse of what can happen here if we cleaned up the transport system,” he told BusinessDaily.
This is what spurred the idea of bringing electric buses to Kenya which are christened BasiGo.
Before this venture, he worked with American tech companies including Apple, Mission Motors and Fenix Intercontinental.
Jit Bhattacharya is one of the co-founders of BasiGo, Kenya’s first electric bus company. Their Headquarters are in Westlands, Nairobi.
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The company’s goal is to deliver 1000 electric buses to different companies in Kenya within the next five years. Kenya is ideal since a huge percentage of the power generated in the country is clean. Thus, the odds of changing from diesel to electric are favourable.
Unlike diesel powered engines, electric cars are powered with a battery that recharges using electricity making it ideal for the environment. They are also much easier to drive and are very comfortable unlike most bus models in Kenya.
BasiGo began by launching the first two buses as everyone from the government, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya power to the ordinary citizens held their breath to see how this would thrive. This was a first in Africa. He said Nairobi, Kenya and other urban dwellings cannot continue to support their growth with the level of pollution.
In their payment plan, operators can buy a 25-seater at Sh5 million. They can then subscribe for battery charging services, pay as you drive. This will be done after every 20 kilometers and would be the operational cost. He feels this would be cheaper compared to diesel buses which often fall victim to the fluctuating fuel prices.
In February 2022, the company raised $4.3 million in seed capital. The startup said it will use this funding to scale up operations, including establishing an assembly plant in Nairobi. The government also plans to roll out Rapid Bus Transit which couldn’t have come at a better time for Basi Go who bid for the project. The company announced plans to assemble its EV buses locally using parts sourced from China’s EV manufacturer BYD automative.
Jit Bhattacharya is an alumni of Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley.
He is a father of one daughter who is a little over one year. As a new parent, he worries a lot about the world she is growing up in.