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BasiGo to kick-off EV assembly in Kenya after $6.6M funding

BasiGo will begin assembling electric buses in Kenya from next month, ramping up its production of public transport vehicles (PSVs) as it targets to deliver 100 units by the end of next year.

The startup plans to deliver 15 of the 100 buses, manufactured using parts from China’s EV maker BYD Automotive, in January next year, having completed its six-month pilot programme in the country’s capital, Nairobi. It also plans to expand its charging infrastructure network, with an initial focus on Nairobi, where its clients are mainly operational.

The plans come against the backdrop of the new $6.6 million equity funding co-led by Novastar; an Africa-focused VC firm, Mobility54; the corporate venture capital arm of Toyota Tsusho; and Trucks.vc, a Silicon-Valley based VC firm that backs startups in the transport sector. This brings the total amount raised by BasiGo since its launch last year to $10.9 million.

“As we prepare to deliver the next batch of e-buses, we are deploying the necessary charging infrastructure to support that expanded fleet. Currently, all of our customers are Nairobi public service vehicle operators and we are deploying charging infrastructure within the Nairobi area to support their operations. In the future, when we begin delivering to customers operating routes outside of Nairobi, we will expand the reach of our charging network beyond the city,” BasiGo CEO Jit Bhattacharya, who co-founded the startup with Jonathan Green (CFO), told TechCrunch.

To ensure adoption BasiGo’s Pay-As-You-Drive model makes it possible for bus owners to acquire the electric buses for a similar upfront cost of a diesel one.

The operators then pay a $0.17 subscription fee for every kilometer; a fee that covers the leasing of the e-bus battery, charging services and general vehicle maintenance;

“In this respect, a BasiGo electric bus is always a higher return-on-investment for a bus owner compared to diesel buses. BasiGo's K6 electric bus comes with an eight-year or 600,000-kilometer battery warranty direct from the manufacturer, BYD Automotive,” said Bhattacharya.

The buses will come in 25- and 36-seater capacities, with a range of about 250 kilometers, which is enough to cover daily round trips. The buses are also a cheaper and cleaner alternative in Kenya’s public transport industry, currently dominated by fossil-fuel buses.

There are about 20,000 diesel and petrol vehicles ferrying commuters across Nairobi, which are great contributors to the air-pollution that kills over 18,000 people every year in Kenya.

BasiGo plans to supply over 1,000 mass transit electric buses to transport operators in Kenya over the next five years.

“Over 90% of Kenya’s electricity already comes from renewables. Yet Kenya’s transport sector relies entirely on imported petroleum fuels. By electrifying Kenya’s public transport, we can make an immediate dent in climate emissions, clean up the air in our cities, and give bus owners relief from the rising cost of diesel. With this new funding, BasiGo is ready to bring the benefits of state-of-the-art electric transport to all people in Africa,” said Bhattacharya.

BasiGo and its main competitor Opibus are the two EV startups in Kenya eyeing the mass transit sector. The launch of their buses follows plans by the government to roll-out Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network, to be operated by green (electric, hybrid and biodiesel) vehicles, presenting a great business opportunity for EV players in the market.