Year/Course: 2022-2023, Easter 2023
Project type: Development

Inventor: Solar E-Cycles, Nairobi, Kenya
Mentor: TBC

A Kenyan e-mobility startup is collaborating with students from the University of Cambridge to design and prototype a battery health monitoring system for the lithium-ion batteries used for electric motorbikes. While battery charging is seen as most appropriate for private cars, a battery-swap system is needed for the two- and three-wheeler vehicles used to transport people and goods in low- and middle-income countries.

In Kenya there is increasing interest in transitioning from petrol to electric boda bodas, the local term for motorbike taxis, and the sector is very fast growing and complex. Presently a number of Kenyan and international companies are competing for market share, and a range of technologies and business models are jostling for dominance.

For e-motorbikes, the lithium-ion batteries are almost as expensive as the rest of the motorbike, which is driving a range of business models and financing options that explore options from ownership, to hire purchase, to renting. The relative value of the batteries also presents particular challenges for the battery-swap approach relating to security, battery care and maintenance.

For Solar E-cycles, effective real time monitoring of each battery’s health will be key to fleet management and the company’s financial viability going forward. Unfortunately there are currently no reliable ways to do this. They are therefore working with Cambridge students to design and test a sensor system to geolocate and monitor the state of each battery in the fleet in real time.

The question for the i-Team is to investigate whether such a system would be of interest to electric two- and three-wheeler fleet owners in other low- and middle-income countries. If so, what would be the most useful parameters to monitor, and in what form would the data be most useful? Would lithium-ion battery manufacturers be interested in integrating such sensors into their products? And what might be the pros and cons for the companies selling electric two- and three-wheelers?

The findings of the i-Team will feed into the development of the battery health monitoring system, ensuring that it is designed to meet the real-world needs of the operators of electric motorcycles.