Students turn school project into multi-billion company in Kenya

From a university research project to manufacturing electric buses that will be used in Kenya's BRT system

An employee of Opibus working on a car

A project that started out as university research is now poised to become one of the first companies to produce electric buses in Kenya

According to a report by CNN, Opibus was created by former Linköping University students Filip Gardler, Mikael Gånge and Filip Lövström.

The company recently got funding to expand its operations in Kenya, and Africa to the tune of Sh8 billion.

The firm was founded in 2017 and is the main provider of locally designed and manufactured electric vehicles. It has also employed Kenyans at its workshop.

The students scouted where their where electric mobility project could have the largest possible impact and settled on Kenya.

The manufacturer is currently conducting a pilot test before the commercial deployment of 10 buses during the second half of 2022.

The government is also edging towards electric vehicles, having declared that the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that is still under construction will only be open to electric buses.

The buses are to be considered in three options based on propulsion technology [namely] biodiesel, hybrid, electric and the options for sale or a proposed lease tenure covering a three, seven and 12 years period,” said the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (Namata) acting Director-General, Francis Gitau, in a notice published in local dailies.

This first electric bus is set to be launched commercially mid this year. Following this, the platform will be tested at scale in commercial deployment of 10 buses during the second half of 2022.

In doing so, we ensure that we gather valuable feedback to continue the development of the product for an optimized market fit. It feels great to be the first movers in this very exciting space,” Opibus Project Coordinator for Public Transport Dennis Wakaba said in a recent interview.

Before turning to electric buses, the company had been converting old petroleum engines to use electric modules.

Some of their popular clients were tour vans operators and SUVs whose conversion costs more than Sh4 million.

Opibus also manufactured electric motorcycles, given the popularity of boda boda as a means of public transport.

Fransua Vytautas Razvadauskas a consultant in market research told CNN that in 2021 Kenya had 1.8 million motorcycles and mopeds compared with 1.2 million passenger cars.

The motorbikes, which have a range of up to 200 kilometres and a peak speed of 90 kilometres per hour, are priced at Sh160,000.

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