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

Solar e-Cycles – Smart Communities Coalition Innovation Fund (SCCIF) Project (Kenya)

Who, What & Where

  • Solar e-Cycles Kenya Ltd (TryKe)
  • Smart Communities Coalition Innovation Fund (SCCIF) Project
  • Kakuma Refugee Camp & Kalobeyei Settlement, Turkana County, Kenya

The Company

We design and assemble light electric tricycles – essentially, a solar-home system on wheels. The TryKe is our flagship product. It has a battery capacity of 1.6 kWh which allows it to provide affordable sustainable mobility and further productive use with the ability to carry 250 kg of payload over a 50-100 km range at maximum speeds of 25 kph. Being 100% solar-powered, our TryKe provides access to affordable physical mobility and demonstrable social mobility.

The Challenge

Unfortunately, many consider self-sufficiency for refugee communities improbable. Solar e-Cycles Kenya (TryKe) through the SCCIF project is resolute on disapproving of this stance. Having explored economic activities in Kakuma, TryKe settled on smallholder farming and rural mobility as areas ripe for evolution.

Rural small-holder farmers struggle to bring their produce to markets to sell due to an inefficient, expensive and fragmented transportation network. Traders experience the same challenges, spending up to 50% of profits on logistics and often, running at losses or near losses. TryKe is set to provide smallholder farmers and traders the benefits of electric mobility, especially in reduced operational expenses, when compared to conventional fuel-powered mobility solutions. TryKe will provide smallholder farmers with their own autonomy in mobility, thus empowering them to control their own logistics.

Secondly, TryKe will leverage the existing “boda boda” operator network, by leasing electric motorcycles to local boda boda operators who will serve the local farmers and traders through dedicated gig-matching. Lastly, TryKe will implement a robust asset monitoring system to provide predictive maintenance and consequently, even lower operational costs for the electric tricycle and motorcycle operators. Therefore, TryKe is resolute on economic empowerment, through the reduction of costs but also, increase of revenue and consequently, the profitability of business ventures within poor communities, especially, those in rural, off-grid environments.

Renewable Solution

TryKe is planning to deploy 15 electric motorcycles for both passenger and goods transport. The electric motorcycles are built from the popular T.V. Sundram Iyengar and Sons Ltd. (TVS) motorcycle parts. TVS is the prevalent model used in Kakuma. This way, the new technology will be more familiar to the users. Additionally, five e-tricycles will be deployed for goods transport.

Max capacity of vehicle(s)
  • An e-motorcycle can carry a maximum of three people with a maximum weight of 250 kg
  • An e-tricycle can carry a maximum of one person with a maximum weight of 300 kg
Decision on target market
  • TryKe is a company that is dedicated to serving the rural off-grid community in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Kakuma and Kalobeyei were a good fit for the company’s vision of being both rural and underserved
Local community
  • Kakuma has a motorcycle association as well as farmer cooperative groups. TryKe will work with these organisations to bring these vehicles to their members.
  • The vehicles will be available for lease to introduce it to the community before being sold to them
Energy requirements for
individual vehicles
42 kWh (daily demand)
Max operating distance per single charge
  • E-motorcycle: 70 km
  • E-tricycle: 65 km
Battery type
  • Battery chemistry: 3.2 V 6,000 mAh LiFePO4 cells. E-motorcycle battery rating: 51.2 V 42 Ah. Tricycle battery rating: 60 V 30 Ah
  • Motors installed on the e-tricycle are between 1.5 and 3 kWp, as part of ongoing research and development into the different ways of providing value to our customers
  • They are also fitted with on-board data/power management systems (similar to the thin-film transistor TFT100) for dedicated customer support, fleet and real-time maintenance tracking by connecting via the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile money, Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) and Global Positioning System (GPS)
Inhouse DRE capacity to power e-mobility solution The project is supported by the mini-grid with 560 kWp by Renewvia Energy

Project Financing and Costs

120,000 EUR (grant)

  • Solar e-Cycles Kenya Ltd (TryKe)
  • Smart Communities Coalition (USAID, EnDev and PowerAfrica) (financing partner)
  • EnDev/GIZ (implementing partner)
  • UNHCR (humanitarian organisation in charge of the refugees)
  • Turkana County Government (collaboration, permits and licences)
  • Kakuma Riders’ Group Association (beneficiary)
  • Choro Farmers’ Cooperative (beneficiary)
  • Kalobeyei Farmers’ Cooperative (beneficiary)

Project Outcome

While the project is still in the planning stages, TryKe hopes to achieve the following:

  • Improved livelihoods by increasing profits and providing an alternative source of income
  • Mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing the number of ICE motorcycles on the road
  • Access to electricity to refugee households and businesses through its mini-grid

Key Recommendations

  • Liaising with local stakeholders is vital
  • Customer needs assessment is extremely important for the success of the project