Shared Electrical Mobility

Asia is exporting the Tuk Tuk, tricycles, to Africa. Now for the electrical version.

Growing urbanisation and increasing pollution in African cities demand a new approach capable of providing transport systems that are clean and cost effective. In order to understand how to respond to this problem creatively, it is useful to analyse the solutions that are proving successful throughout the world.

One example is the Tuk Tuk, a transport tricycle widely used in Asia and in some African countries. In South-East Asia there are over 10 million in circulation, ensuring a widespread transport service for people and goods. Initially they were powered by two-stroke engines and their use greatly reduced the air quality. Now it is moving to the electrical versions.

This transition is very successful in India where there are already 1.5 million electric tricycles capable of quietly transporting 4-6 passengers without causing any pollution. They are increasing at the rate of 11,000 per month. Provided there are sufficient charging points and improved facilities, the Indian market of these vehicles will reach sales of one million tricycles a year. In Africa both tricycles and mopeds are in use, though three quarters of the urban movement of the poor is done on foot. What is new, however, is the emergence of the call service.

With so many mobile phones, 226 million, the combination of electrical tricycles with an app is an interesting solution in the noisy and polluted African cities. Companies like Uber and the small but dynamic Taxify have tens of thousands of drivers in Sub-Saharan Africa who drive cars, tricycles and mopeds. This innovative approach facilitates jobs in the great urban conglomerates since it guarantees movement where public transport is inefficient.

The lowering of battery prices and the creation of charging points powered by solar panels may well accelerate the passage to electricity. This may also be extended to buses, motorcycles and bicycles. The best example of this is China where there are already 400,000 buses in circulation and, each year, more than 20 million electric bicycles and mopeds are sold. (Gianni Silvestrini)