Nopia Ride, a taxi-hailing service that only uses electric cars is scaling up operations in Kenya. Nopia ran a pilot phase from August 2018 to March 2019. Three used Nissan Leafs imported from Japan and the United Kingdom were used in the pilot program. The pilot phase allowed the company to test its business case and showcase the business plan to potential investors with real trip data to validate its case.

Nopia also set up two hubs equipped with DC Fast Chargers in Nairobi. These hubs were initially at the Two Rivers Mall in Ruaka and at the Hub Mall in Karen. The company has since added a third fast-charging hub at the Thika Road Mall. Going for used Nissan Leafs was a smart move that enabled Nopia to enter the market with a minimum viable product. For the price of a new Nissan Leaf, Nopia entered the market with 3 used Nissan Leafs instead. Used Nissan Leaf models from circa 2014 can be imported into Kenya for about $15,000, while a new 2019 Leaf would be more than $50,000 to import into Kenya. The 2019 Leaf is not yet available in Sub-Saharan Africa and anyone wanting to get their hands on one would have to import directly from Japan or the UK. Nopia imported three 2014 low mileage Leafs that were still in a decent state in terms of battery health. They chose Leafs with 11 or 12 of the original 12 bars on the battery gauge.

Road Trip #1 | Nopia ride Nissan Leaf taxi trip from Nairobi to Thika and Back | 24 kWh

The used Leafs still had a decent range of about 120 km | 74.5 miles in a combined city and highway driving cycle which we tested here. In this video, a Nopia taxi goes on a round trip to one of Nairobi’s satellite towns called Thika. For normal customer commutes around the Nairobi, this range is just fine. Drivers can pick up riders and top up their charge with DC fast-charging intervals at Nopia’s charging stations.

It would be interesting to follow the vehicle battery degradation over time in Nairobi conditions. The temperature in Nairobi averages around 19° C | 66° F with highs of just under 30° C | 86° F. As in many African Countries, most of the cars imported into Kenya are used ICE vehicles. These cars are imported from Japan, the United Kingdom, Thailand, and Singapore.

As more and more EVs become available on the used vehicle market in these source countries, there is great potential that these preowned EVs will find a new lease of life in African countries in rideshare platforms like Nopia. Earlier this year, Uber drivers in Kenya went on strike to push for higher fares, citing high operating costs associated with running their ICE vehicles. Uber drivers stand to benefit from following their peers at Nopia by switching to electric vehicles via lower servicing costs. With the internal combustion engine taken out of the equation, fewer moving parts and in the long term, no timing belts and emission control devices to replace, drivers stand to save a huge chunk in opex costs.

Image Caption: One of Nopia’s Nissan Leafs charging at the Hub Mall, Karen, Nairobi: Picture by Remeredzai Kuhudzai
One of Nopia’s Nissan Leafs charging at the Hub Mall, Karen, Nairobi: Picture by Remeredzai Kuhudzai

Nopia has since increased the number of vehicles on its platform to 11 and plans to increase this number to a commendable 50 EVs by mid-2020. With only a few electric vehicles owned by the general public in Kenya, shared mobility services such as Nopia Ride present an opportunity for most people in Kenya to experience the world of electric mobility for the first time. This will go a long way in raising awareness and hopefully catalyze increased adoption of EVs in Kenya. One hopes that more and more drivers in the shared mobility service industry will transition to electric mobility.

Nopia also has a model where Nopia imports the electric vehicles and its driver partners pay for the vehicles over a period, which is great as it lowers the barriers to entry for drivers wishing to join the share mobility service industry but do not have the upfront capex to purchase the vehicles.