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Electric Bikes Hit West Africa

FILE: One motorbike on display at the first electric motorbike exhibition in Los Angeles. Taken May 6, 2019

Much of Africa uses motobikes for transportation, even as taxis. But in Benin and Togo, bike operators are going more and more for electric models both for efficiency and for passenger comfort.

With city streets congested and the air often filled with exhaust fumes, the attraction of electric motorbikes becomes strong.

One avid passenger in Benin is hairdresser Edwige Govi, who explains why she prefers them.

"They are very quiet and do not give off smoke," she said.

While passengers like not sitting on top of hot smoky petrol bike exhaust, operators like them for their lower operating costs.

Govi's bike driver, named "Octave," said "I make more money than with my fuel motorcycle."

With Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, soaring fuel costs have made electric bikes even more attractive.

Environmental journalist Alain Tossounon notes not only the fuel, but also, the cost of the electric bike versus its petrol comparative.

In Bein, he notes, an electric motorcycle costs the equivalent of 737 Euros, versus 752 Euros for an "ICE" [internal combustion engine] equivalent.

Tossounon says there's another attractant for the new machines - he says a number of these bikes are sold on flexible credit deals so as the operator makes money, the cost can be paid off.

Several operators in Cotonou rave about the demand these machines generate.

Anicet Takalodjou says "The queue here is from morning to evening. Every hour, at least two rull out of the shop."

Another operator, Oloufounmi Koucoi, in Cotonou, says "The number is growing every day."

In Togo's capital, Lome, Octave de Souza says along with not spending money to constantly fuel his ICE motorcycle, the electric version's "fueling" is so simple.

"All you need to do is change the battery," he said. "There are sales outlets. You go there, and it's exchanged for you."

de Souza says a fresh battery costs the equivalent of 1.5 Euros, and will run the bike for three days - compared to daily petrol fills for ICE bikes.

But some bike taxi operators say they're wary of electric models suddenly running out of electricity while on a run with a passenger.

Along with searching or an electric charging station, operator Koffi Abotsi says precautions force him to swap out batteries that still have a charge "so as not to have any unpleasant surprises along the way."

This report was prepared from information supplied by Agence France-Presse