Rwanda’s Ampersand raises $19.5 million to ramp up electric motorcycle battery production

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Ampersand, Rwanda’s electric motorcycle battery producer has raised $19.5 million in funding to ramp up electric motorcycle battery production, expand swap station network and accelerate R&D on battery tech, software and swap systems.

The round comprises USD 19.5 million in funding including USD 7.5 million of new debt from Africa Go Green Fund(AGG) managed by Cygnum Capital. The VC round was led by Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF) and is joined by Acumen and Hard Edged Hope Fund while the USD 7.5 million debt facility was from Cygnum Capital’s Africa Go Green Fund.

This round also includes a successful S.A.F.E. round with investors such as Alphamundi VC, Societe Petrolieres du Rwanda, TotalEnergies, EIF and Beyond Capital Ventures raised over recent months. 

In 2021, the firm raised $3.5 million in April from the Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF) to rapidly scale its electric motorcycle and swap station network in Rwanda and received another $9 million in November to develop its operations in Rwanda and Kenya.

According to Josh Whale, CEO and Founder of Ampersand, “The strong support of both existing and new investors, despite the current challenging fundraising environment, reflects their confidence in our business model, technology, customer centric approach, strong unit economics and competitive advantage. It also reflects our investors’ commitment to support the green transition in Africa. We are very pleased by the trust placed in us by our growing investor base and look forward to continuing to partner with them to meet the fast-growing demand for electric mobility on the continent.” 

Based in Kigali, Rwanda since 2016, Ampersand began to put electric motorcycles on the ground in Africa in May 2019 and its motorcycles have travelled a combined 180 million kilometres and avoided 8,000 tons of carbon emissions. As of December 2023, Ampersand serves 1,700 electric motorcycle riders with battery swaps. These customers together cover 1.4 million km every week in Kigali and Nairobi, powered by 140,000 monthly battery swaps. 

Ampersand’s made-in-Africa battery fleet already leads the world in cost per km and uptime for light-electric vehicles. With a presence in Rwanda and Kenya, Ampersand has grown its battery fleet to serve 1,700 users from 32 battery swap stations in Kigali and Nairobi. The company aims to serve 1,000,000 vehicles daily by 2030. By powering commercial transport through its reliable battery swap network, Ampersand is paving the way for affordable, lower-carbon public transport, creating hundreds of green jobs in the process.

 Laurene Aigrain, Executive Director of Africa Go Green Fund commented, “We are honoured to be a part of this groundbreaking transaction and are proud to be amongst such reputable investors. We believe that e-mobility has the potential to transform the African transportation sector. The AGG facility will help make e-mobility more accessible and affordable for people across the continent, while also supporting the development of a green economy.” 

Several estimates put between 125,000 to 150,000 ICE motorcycles in Rwanda and over 2 million in Kenya or roughly 30 million ICE motorcycles in Africa and fuel spend at over $30B per year. The motorbike taxis also add a major headache to Africa traffic jam problems. Ampersand aims to have more than 600,000 electric motorbikes across East Africa by 2030 though partnerships and innovative asset financing models with players such as Bboxx, Watu, and M-Kopa vehicle finance, and TotalEnergies, among others. These is eventually expected to eradicate the transport crisis and reduce levels of poverty in some regions on the continent.

“Transport within Africa’s cities is vital to growth and supports the livelihoods of millions. With the innovations in sustainable transport that Ampersand is pioneering, we see a huge potential for improving livelihoods and increasing incomes of those living in poverty. Through Acumen’s investment in Ampersand, we are excited to be supporting a leading innovator in the growing e-mobility sector in Africa,” said Christopher Emmott, Associate Director, Investing in Energy Access at Acumen.