Kenya-based EV startup BasiGo has closed a $4.3 million seed funding three months after establishing operations in East Africa’s largest economy to bring clean-energy commuter vehicles to a country heavily reliant on buses dependent on fossil fuels.
The startup said it will use the new funds to build an assembly plant in Nairobi and start selling and delivering its electric buses. BasiGo has already set up a loading and maintenance depot next 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 during the pre-seed round late last year.
“We are very excited to be partnering with Novastar, Moxxie and this incredible group of investors, all of whom have extensive experience in rapidly scaling businesses in this market. They understand this extraordinary moment of opportunity and urgency as the world is running out of time to make a meaningful impact on climate emissions,” said Jit Bhattacharya, co-founder and CEO of BasiGo. Jonathan Green is the other co-founder of the startup.
“With East Africa’s abundant renewable energy, this market can leapfrog to clean, modern electric transportation just as African cities emerge as the next hubs of economic growth. The support and knowledge of this group of investors will propel BasiGo forward in its mission to transform East Africa into a leader in inclusive, sustainable bus transport,” he said.
Bhattacharya’s electric vehicle experience is extensive, having been a technology leader in rechargeable (lithium-ion) batteries for more than 12 years. He has held leadership positions at various companies including Mission Motors in Silicon Valley, Project Titan – Apple Inc’s secretive electric car project, and Fenix International, an off-grid solar systems company. Green, BasiGo’s Chief Financial Officer, has spent the last 15 years working with various companies to bring renewable energy technologies to users across Africa.
BasiGo plans to deliver over 1,000 electric commuter buses to Nairobi transit companies over the next five years. To encourage adoption of these vehicles, the startup will offer drivers pay-as-you-drive credit options and provide maintenance and charging services.
BasiGo will begin the pilot program next month to join Swedish-Kenyan EV startup Opibus, whose first locally made electric bus hit Kenya‘s roads three weeks ago. Both companies have their sights set on the mass transit sector, which is slowly transitioning to 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 for completion this year, will only operate with green (electric, hybrid and biodiesel) vehicles will. This represents a great business opportunity for EV manufacturers like Opibus and assemblers like BasiGo. Opibus has been in the business of converting petrol and diesel vehicles to electric vehicles for the last five years, but is now moving into the production of new vehicles alongside e-bikes .
BasiGo will assemble its EV buses – which will be available in 25- and 36-seat capacities and a range of about 250 kilometers – locally, using parts sourced from Chinese EV manufacturer BYD Automotive.
“We are excited 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, resulting in a vastly improved commuter experience as well as better air quality in densely populated neighborhoods,” said Sapna Shah, Partner at Novastar Ventures.
It is estimated that around 20,000 fossil fuel vehicles carry commuters through Nairobi, making the public transport sector one of the main contributors to air pollution in the city.
According to IQAir, a Switzerland-based air quality technology company, the concentration of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) in Nairobi’s air is currently 3.6 times higher than the WHO annual air quality benchmark.
Air pollution that causes the deaths of about 18,000 Kenyans per Kenya is largely due to commuter vehicles and motorcycles. The introduction of electric vehicles is therefore expected to reduce noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and health complications.