Bodawerk, a Ugandan based engineering and innovations company aims to professionalize and commercialize existing prototypes to build innovations to problems for people at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ in Uganda.
Founded in 2017 by Jakob Hornbach (CEO & Co-Founder) and Ben L. Koriang (CCO & Co-Founder), BODAWERK’s core projects include the Bodawerk InnoHub where innovative ideas, technical designs and prototypes are developed for the local market; the E-Mobility projects focused on developing E-Mobility solutions for motorcyclists, persons of disability and farmers as well as the battery recycling and production department where we reuse and recycle electronic waste in form of Li-ion batteries or automotive wiring looms.
TechMoran caught up with Bodawerk’s CEO and this is what we learned.
What inspired you to start Bodawerk?
In Uganda and East Africa as a whole, the motorcycle is the main mode of transportation whether it is for people or goods. It’s mainly used because it’s quick, convenient and efficient. Whereas the motorcycle is the most used, it presents major challenges not only for the cyclists but on the environment.
In Kampala alone the capital city of Uganda there are an estimated 150,000 petrol motorcyclists offering public transport and logistics services. This industry is one of the main contributors to local emissions consisting of smoke & fumes, more than 600,000 tons of carbon dioxide, noise pollution, dust and 3.38 million liters of black gearbox oil per year – usually poured in the trench. Kampala tops the list for cities with the most polluted air in East, Central and Southern Africa.
Secondly, the motorcycle serves especially the low-income population and due to the rising fuel prices over the years, mobility has become more and more expensive.
Additionally, Uganda as a country, relies on foreign fuel imports while being in debt for infrastructure investments in renewable energies such as hydro dams and solar power generation parks.
We started this project because E-Mobility offers the ideal solution to the above problems. By renting out a battery at a subsidized price, we reduce the financial hurdle for the adoption of E-mobility by providing cheaper and sustainable mobility all at once. In addition to this, by introducing E-Mobility we transition to a cleaner and environmentally friendly mobility solution.
What are some of the obstacles you have faced and how are you solving them?
E-mobility for motorcycles in Uganda has not yet been recognized or considered to the level of policy advancement and implementation compared to other countries. We as an organization are trying to create strategic alliances with other like-minded companies in the industry to present a stronger case to ease and quicken the growth of the e-mobility industry and space in Uganda.
Secondly, the level of skilling is still a challenge for example in EV (Electric Vehicle) technology. BODAWERK is currently working on strategic partnerships with Technical schools and institutes to train youths in the required technology in order to create Electric vehicle (EV) consultants with unparalleled industry knowledge and expertise. With training we also seek to widen the innovation space for technical students.
Your startup won the 2019 International Start Up Energy Transition Award in the ‘innovative mobility ‘category. What is the impact of this award to your company?
Through this Award we have gained publicity for our innovations, met potential clients, sponsors and partners. This Award has not only grown our international community of viewers but our products have also gained credibility and visibility with international organizations, local government institutions and customers.
How sustainable is this project in regard to sourcing of raw materials and funding?
This project relies and runs on self-assembled batteries built from Lithium-Ion cells that we have recycled to 100% from dead laptop battery packs. For the wiring we recycle the wiring loom of a Toyota Land cruiser giving us miles of automotive grade wires at a fraction of the cost.
Lithium ion batteries are sustainable as a raw material. With proper usage, they can have a longer life cycle compared to other batteries because they can cycle between 2000 and 5000 times and can be repurposed and reused in different industries. Because of this they are an environmentally friendlier option since they can be reused far much longer.
As BODAWERK we prolong the Usage of the battery by making use of the entire battery cycle. In this way we add more value and get more from the battery as a raw material without having to spend much.
The Boda boda industry is quite competitive especially as a result of influx of cheap imports from India, China and the fact that some organizations are giving out motorbikes on credit. How unique are your products and how do you plan to beat your competitors?
Our business model is like that of a fuel station and it is what makes us unique. We distribute and provide electric energy for mobility. Instead of selling fuel, we rent out our charged batteries as a service. Sharing the most expensive element of E-Mobility across industries and applications while managing and maintaining it centrally makes E-Mobility affordable for everyone.
In order to keep our capital expenditures low, we produce and maintain our own batteries through their whole lifetime. Through the circular economy approaches we recycle, reuse, regenerate and redistribute waste by turning it into a valuable resource while conserving the environment. Shared economy: In this way we focus on sharing underutilised resources while promoting sustainability, inclusivity and community in our cities.
After developing a motorcycle, tractor and a wheelchair that can share our battery, the future products we are currently working on include ´cars, trucks, bicycles, boats, and stationary energy backup for offices, solar packs or cell towers as the 2nd life of our Lithium Ion cells.
E-Mobility comes with huge savings for our customers, that we will soon complement with value adding financial services. Our first service to be offered will be a health insurance payable on a weekly basis.
When it comes to addressing the issue of imports, we source all our raw material locally and carry out all assembling and production work locally thereby supporting local industries and substituting imports in the long run.
What products do your offer and how do they operate individually?
We have developed a conversion kit, that allows to retro-fit the local motorcycle. We then offer a charged battery in a subscription model at about half of the current fuel expenditures. A network of battery swap stations will provide charged batteries wherever and whenever needed. We convert the motorcycles free of charge, offer the charged batteries as a service reducing risk of ownership as well as the need to raise the required capital for our clients. On top of that, the maintenance costs are reduced by more than 95% by exchanging the petrol driven power train with the electric power train containing only two moving parts (bearings) that require maintenance. In addition to that, also the cost factor of buying one liter of oil every two weeks is removed. Our lean, mobile money based; cashless payment system allows to self-manage the subscription services.
E-TRAK (Electric Tractor)
The E-Trak is one of the latest of BODAWERK’s E-Mobility projects. Just like the E-boda and E-wheely the E-Trak runs on Li-ion battery packs. It has a modular mobile power platform that enables Bodawerk to offer mobile milling, threshing of produce and tilling of land for the rural farmers. The E-Trak travels with the necessary equipment and inputs to a farmer’s fields performing all types of jobs from seed planting to on-site milling. Utilizing BODAWERK’s proprietary battery design, the E-Trak is powered by 6, 2.5kWh battery packs for a combined 15kWh of charge. However, the E-Trak can travel with as many additional charged packs as necessary depending on the energy demands for that particular day’s work. The E-Trak doubles as a front wheel drive vehicle hauling up to 4-tons and its modular design allows for fast and easy changing between implements and machinery attachments.
E-WHEELY (Electric Wheelchair)
The E-Wheely is a locally made electric Wheelchair that is powered by rechargeable recycled lithium-ion batteries that are got from dead laptop batteries and propelled by electric motors with the help of a speed and motion controller (joystick). It is customizable based on individual assessments to fit user’s impairments and needs. E.g. work desk, storage, hospital drip stand, power outlets (USB ports) etc. The Wheel chair comes in two designs: one that uses bicycle wheels and the other using motorcycle wheels.
It is 75% cheaper than the European made electric wheelchairs and is designed for both indoor and outdoor use.
Statistically, the Ugandan population totals to about 42m people of which 12.4% are PWDs and 50% of PWDs suffer from walking disability. Only 17% of the population of people with walking disabilities have access to manual wheelchairs. The Wheel-chairs that exist are manual and do not serve the mobility needs of PWDs sufficiently. This E-Wheely will ease transport my improving independence and maneuverability in movement on busy Ugandan roads and overall lives of PWDs.
What advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneurs?
Pursue all opportunities in the market that can grow the company for example apply for grants, awards. Build strong networks with companies in the same industry in order to gather new technologies and models for business competitiveness. It is also important as an entrepreneur to do a lot of research. See how other companies are doing things because trends are changing daily.
Where would you like to see Bodawerk in the next 5 years?
We shall have built battery swap stations and have running motorcycles not only in the major cities of Uganda but stretched into East Africa. Apart from the motorcycle, tractor and a wheelchair, we hope to have started on other future projects which include ´cars, trucks, bicycles, boats, and stationary energy backup for offices, solar packs or cell towers as the 2nd life of our Lithium Ion cells.