By Jo Beckendorff
Since the end of January, three cargo bikes from the U.S. e-bike company Benno Bikes have been in solar power use in the West African country of Benin. As part of a mobility pilot project, Ibee Studer, a Swiss industrial engineering firm specializing in the development, financing and operation of solar power systems, shipped three Boost E utility longtails to Benin.
In West Africa, the Swiss solar experts are already investing in solar-powered water supply stations, grain mills, electric mobility and other solar projects run by partner companies. Since motorcycles are currently the most used means of transport in Benin (in the largest city of Cotonou alone, there are around a hundred thousand motorbikes on the road) and their operation costs an average of €2.71 per 100 kilometers in fuel alone, the Swiss have done the math: An e-bike, by comparison, comes to less than 1 kilowatt hour on this route – and costs €0.14.
The Boost E cargo longtails were received at the port of Lomé on Jan. 22. In the small town of Comé, they were then fixed up by a competent bicycle mechanic. Since there was no electricity in his workshop, Ibee Studer obtained the power for the first battery charge without further ado from a cell phone credit vendor.
One bike’s maiden voyage took it to a farm where diesel-powered pumps had previously been used for irrigation. Meanwhile, the local solar contractor was able to install a new solar pump and a solar panel. Meanwhile, he also uses an e-bike for his installation tours.
Whether another e-bike transferred to Cotonou can be rented to a food delivery service for a daily fee of €2.71 or used to sell photovoltaic equipment remains to be seen. In any case, it will replace daily motorcycle cab rides.
Ibee Studer plans to import more Benno utility bikes. The first three test models have already shown that they were very satisfactory on the sand tracks, also thanks to the powerful electric motor and thick 24-inch tires. Even with a trailer, they rode well and safely through every sand hole.
The niche e-bike brand Benno Bikes was founded a few years ago by former Electra Group co-founder Benno Baenziger (Electra and Townie brands; now owned by Trek Group). The European market is mainly covered by Benno Bikes Swiss GmbH in Appenzell.