Kenya-based electric vehicle startup BasiGoGenericName closed $4.3 million in seed funding, three months after establishing operations in East Africa’s largest economy, to provide clean energy mass transit vehicles in a country that relies heavily on fossil fuel buses.
The startup said it will use the new funding to set up an assembly plant in Nairobi and launch sales and delivery of its electric buses. BasiGo has already installed a loading and maintenance depot adjacent to the country’s main airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in the capital, Nairobi. It also imported two electric buses for the pilot program.
The round was led by Novastar Ventures with participation from a number of existing and new Silicon Valley investors, including Moxxie Ventures, Nimble Partners, Spring Ventures, Climate Capital and Third Derivative. The latest round brings the total funding raised by the startup since its launch to $5.3 million.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Novastar, Moxxie and this incredible group of investors, all of whom have deep experience in fast-scaling deals in this market. They understand this extraordinary moment of opportunity and urgency as time runs out for the world to make a significant impact on climate emissions,” said BasiGo co-founder and CEO, Jit Bhattacharya. Jonathan Green is the other co-founder of the startup.
“With East Africa’s plentiful renewable energy, this market can leap into modern, clean electric transit at the very moment when African cities emerge as the next hub of economic growth. The support and expertise of this group of investors will catalyze BasiGo in its mission to make East Africa a leader in inclusive and sustainable bus transport,” he said.
Bhattacharya’s experience in the EV space is extensive, having been a technology leader in rechargeable (lithium-ion) batteries for over 12 years. He has held executive positions at a number of companies including Mission Motors in Silicon Valley, Project Titan – Apple Inc’s secret electric car project, and at Fenix International, an off-grid home solar systems company. GreenBasiGo’s chief financial officer, has spent the last 15 years working with different companies to provide renewable energy technologies to users across Africa.
BasiGo plans to supply more than 1,000 mass transit electric buses to transport operators in Nairobi over the next five years. To encourage uptake of these vehicles, the startup will extend pay-as-you-go credit options to drivers and provide maintenance and billing services.
BasiGo is due to start the pilot program next month to join Swedish-Kenyan electric vehicle startup Opibus, whose maiden locally-made electric bus arrived on Kenya’s roads three weeks ago. Both companies have their eyes on the mass transit sector, which is slowly shifting towards clean energy options.
A week ago, the Kenyan government announced that its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network, a bus-based public transport system in Nairobi due to be completed this year, will be operated solely by green vehicles (electric, hybrid and biodiesel). presenting a huge business opportunity for electric vehicle manufacturers like Opibus and automakers like BasiGo. Opibus has been in the business of converting gasoline and diesel vehicles to electric for the past five years, but is now moving into production of new vehicles as well as e-motorcycles.
BasiGo will locally assemble its EV buses – which will come in 25- and 36-seat capacities, with a range of around 250 kilometers – using parts sourced from Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD Automotive.
“We are thrilled to partner with BasiGo and support the team’s bold vision to transform the public bus transport sector in Africa. Our investment will accelerate the adoption of electric buses through an innovative financial model, leading to a much better passenger experience as well as better air quality in dense urban neighborhoods,” said Sapna Shah, partner at Novastar Ventures.
There are estimated to be around 20,000 fossil fuel-powered vehicles transporting passengers across Nairobi, making the public transport services sector a major contributor to air pollution in the city.
According IQAira Swiss-based air quality technology company, the concentration of fine particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) in Nairobi air is currently 3.6 times higher than the WHO annual air quality guideline value .
Air pollution, which kills around 18,000 Kenyans in each Kenya, is largely attributable to mass transit vehicles and motorcycles. The adoption of EVs, therefore, should reduce noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and health complications.