• Eastern Africa
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Case study 20 January, 2023 Battery / Energy StorageSolar PV AgricultureE-mobility Micro/Mini-grid

ENGIE Equatorial – E-outboards for fishermen on Lake Victoria (Uganda)

Who, What & Where

  • ENGIE Equatorial
  • E-outboards for fishermen on Lake Victoria
  • Lolwe Island, Namayingo District, Uganda

The Company

ENGIE Equatorial, an integrated energy services provider, commissioned a solar hybrid mini-grid in the Lolwe island, bringing power to > 3,800 households and businesses and powering a productive hub. In this context, the e-mobility pilot aims to deploy and test 15 electric outboards for fishing applications to reduce the environmental impact of polluting Internal Combustion Engines (ICE). The project will test the economic and technical feasibility of different business models, strictly focused on fishing applications on Lake Victoria.

Academic papers and blog posts are publicly available to share experiences and lessons learned with a focus on the technical, environmental, social, economic and commercial aspects of the systems. By sharing their experience, ENGIE Equatorial intends to support similar projects and other developers to accelerate the global transition towards more sustainable and low-carbon mobility.


The Challenge


  • Equipment costs are high, but the economic viability of the business is possible
  • Engines suffer heavy use and outboards as well as accessories are prone to damage. This is fixed by replacing the current outboard propellers with more robust material and engaging the community on best practices to maintain these assets.
  • It is feasible to design a battery-swapping model, but it involves the removal of the modules from the boat at every recharge, which is not easy to perform on the dock. Thus, it is recommended to adopt battery modules of max 30 kg each.
  • Batteries are expensive, and their duration is crucial for the economic sustainability of the project. They should therefore be handled with a lot of care.

Renewable Solution

15 boats equipped with electric outboards and Li-ion battery banks were introduced as the e-mobility solution.

Max capacity of vehicle(s)
  • A fishing boat can weigh up to 2 t. The weight of the catch varies between 200-500 kg, depending on the season.
  • The electric outboard and the batteries are around 100 kg
  • Usually, two people take part in a fishing trip
Decision on target market
  • ENGIE Equatorial installed a mini-grid in the project site to provide electricity services as well as to enhance the livelihood of local people
  • Fishing activities take a large share of e-transportation on the lake
  • The mini-grid project supporting the e-mobility is one important aspect of the company’s business model among others
  • E-mobility solutions introduced an anchor load to the mini-grid
Local community
  • Several surveys and community-engagement meetings were held to assess the community’s needs
  • A cohort of e-mobility ambassadors was selected within the fishing community to test the systems, provide feedback and share the experience. In effect, a Human-Centred Design (HCD) approach was utilised.
Energy requirements for individual vehicles
  • Each electric outboard consumes between 5-7 kWh of electricity for each trip, with an average electric power demand between 3-4 kW
  • The recharge is provided through chargers connected to the mini-grid
Max operating distance per single charge The maximum operating range observed so far is between 20-45 km depending on the speed, loading and weather conditions on the lake
Battery type Li-ion batteries
Inhouse DRE capacity to power e-mobility solution
  • Solar hybrid mini-grid, consisting of 600 kWp of PV capacity
  • The batteries for e-mobility are charged via the distribution grid of the solar hybrid mini-grid
  • The charge happens exclusively during the daytime, so the energy source is 100% solar
  • The mini-grid supplies power to the entire island
  • E-mobility charging is just one of the electricity-related services covered by the PV plant
  • Other services/products include the production of ice for fish storage, fish drying and potable water purification unit
Energy storage & backup power
  • 360 kWh Li-ion storage for night-time consumption and a 200 kVA backup diesel generator
  • For e-mobility applications, recharge is allowed to take place exclusively in the daytime with direct solar charging
  • Fishing activities are predominately overnight while the batteries are charged during the day

Project Financing and Costs

244,880 EUR

  • ENGIE Equatorial Ltd. (ideation, design, implementation and execution – own and operate)
  • IKEA Foundation (co-funder via the Transforming Energy Access platform)
  • UK Aid (co-funder via the Transforming Energy Access platform)
  • STIMA Lab – University of Massachusetts Amherst (technical partner for data acquisition)
  • Energy4Impact (support on Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) of the project outcome)

Project Outcome

  • Creation of three local permanent part-time jobs for battery recharge and asset management
  • Reduction of operation costs for fishermen by an estimated 20-60% (depending on cases)
  • The approximate amount of gasoline saved would be between 1,628 and 2,750 l per year per boat
  • The estimated amount of CO2 emissions saved would be between 57 and 96 t per year
  • Access to energy for > 3,800 households and businesses, one water purification facility, one fish drier and four ice machines

Key Recommendations

  • Development of local know-how on maintenance and troubleshooting is essential
  • Keeping a stock of spare parts is recommended
  • Equipment manufacturers should develop a more robust and resilient design for this type of application, to reduce the occurrence of damages and increase equipment lifetime