Public transportation in most African countries is the main means of getting around for the majority of residents, mostly because of affordability. However, most of these public buses, vans or taxis greatly contribute to air pollution. Sometimes, they are also not the safest means of travel. Electrotaxi seeks to solve the problem of inefficient, unsafe and polluting minibus taxi network first in South Africa and then expand into the rest of the African continent.
“Our goal is to retail and lease electric minibuses to taxi operators, which will be solar-powered, have the capacity for high-speed charging and provide battery swapping stations,” said Ewan Bloomfield, the company’s co-founder and Business Director.
Electrotaxi will operate electric minibus taxis that are similar in size and capacity as current taxis in use, but they will be more modern, offer better performance through improved operations and handling, as well as provide enhanced safety features for both the drivers and passengers. The electric minibus taxis will use swappable batteries to extend the amount of time the vehicles can be used, which is a great feature during the busy rush hour traffic. The taxis will also have fast charge capabilities to save on time spent at recharging hubs. Another great selling point of these vehicles is that they are solar-powered, which means even when the power is either being rationed or erratic, the taxis can be still be on the road.
“We will ensure that our electric, solar-powered minibus taxis run efficiently and effectively through the development of a data platform, installing devices in each taxi track all journeys, allowing route optimisation, offering incentives to promote safe driving and tracking battery usage. Our customer app will also enable clients to choose a taxi, rate the driver and the vehicle and will also have a panic button for added safety,” added Mr Bloomfield.
Electrotaxi targets to replace over 200,000 fossil-fuel powered minibus taxis, currently in operation in South Africa, and then branch out into other African countries by providing vehicles powered by renewable solar energy.
Started in 2020, the company currently has three full-time staff members and has its base in Cape Town. The team has extensive experience in supporting the business development of energy companies throughout Africa as well as founding and scaling up award-winning Internet of Things and renewable energy startups. This experience will prove vital in the expansion of Electrotaxi.
The company is developing a leasing model that will reduce the transport costs for passengers as well as saving taxi operators between 10 – 20 per cent of the lease cost. Taxi operators or investors who opt for the lease-to-own method will pay for the vehicles on a monthly basis and the payment will include charging of the vehicles, insurance and maintenance.
“We aim to electrify 1,000 minibus taxis or 0.5 per cent of all minibus taxis in South Africa within the next 3 years and 5 per cent of all minibus taxis within the next five years. This goal will result in significant savings for both taxi operators and passengers, as well as make commuting safer for the environment,” said Mr Bloomfield.
The company will start its operations first in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape of South Africa as it has a relatively modest network of taxis and main routes to Brakenfell and Somerset West. The company also developed its pilot project together with the University of Stellenbosch. Electrotaxi will then scale up its operations throughout Cape Town and the rest of the urban centres in Western Cape, before moving to other provinces in South Africa.