BasiGo Secures $4.3M Seed Funding to Accelerate the Adoption of Electric Transit Vehicles in Kenya – TechCrunch
EV Startup based in Kenya BasiGo secured $4.3 million in seed funding, three months after setting up operations in East Africa’s largest economy, to deliver clean-energy mass transit vehicles to a country which relies heavily on fossil fuel buses.
The startup said it would use the new funding to set up an assembly plant in Nairobi and start selling and delivering its electric buses. Already, BasiGo has set up a charging and service 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 $4.3 million includes $930,000 raised in the pre-seed round late last year.
“We are thrilled to partner with Novastar, Moxxie and this incredible group of investors, all of whom have deep experience of rapidly growing businesses in this market. They understand this extraordinary time of opportunity and urgency as the clock is ticking for the world to have a meaningful impact on climate emissions,” said BasiGo co-founder and CEO, Jit Bhattacharya. Jonathan Green is the startup’s other co-founder.
“With East Africa’s abundant renewable energy, this market can transition to clean, modern electric transport just as African cities emerge as the next center of economic growth. The support and knowledge 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 field of electric vehicles is extensive, having been a technology leader in rechargeable (lithium-ion) batteries for over 12 years. He has held senior positions in a variety of companies, including Mission Motors in Silicon Valley, Project Titan – Apple Inc.’s secret electric car project, and Fenix International, an out-of-the-box solar home systems company. network. GreenChief Financial Officer of BasiGo, has spent the past 15 years working with different companies to deliver renewable energy technologies to users across Africa.
BasiGo plans to supply more than 1,000 electric transit buses to transport operators in Nairobi over the next five years. To encourage adoption of these vehicles, the startup will extend pay-as-you-go credit options to drivers and provide maintenance and charging services.
BasiGo is set to launch the pilot program next month to join Swedish-Kenyan start-up Opibus, whose first locally-made electric bus hit Kenyan roads three weeks ago. Both companies have set their sights on the public transit sector, which is slowly turning to clean energy options.
A week ago, the Kenyan government announced that its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network, a public bus transport system in Nairobi, due to be completed this year, will only be operated by green vehicles (electric, hybrid and biodiesel), presenting a great business opportunity for electric vehicle manufacturers like Opibus and assemblers like BasiGo. For the past five years, Opibus has focused on converting gasoline and diesel vehicles into electric vehicles, but is now moving into the production of new vehicles in addition to electric motorcycles.
BasiGo will locally assemble its electric buses – which will be available 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 delighted 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 financing model, leading to a significantly improved experience for commuters as well as better air quality in dense urban neighborhoods,” said Sapna Shah, partner of Novastar Ventures.
It is estimated that there are around 20,000 fossil fuel vehicles carrying commuters through Nairobi, making the public transport service sector one of the major contributors to air pollution in the city.
According to IQAira Swiss air quality technology company, the concentration of fine particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) in Nairobi’s air is currently 3.6 times higher than the WHO annual guideline value for air quality.
Air pollution, which kills around 18,000 Kenyans each year, is largely attributable to public transport vehicles and motorbikes. The adoption of electric vehicles should therefore reduce noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and health problems.