SunCycles Provides a Sustainable Transport & Sightseeing Option in Namibia
PUBLISHED 2 MAY 2018
SunCycles, a Namibian startup founded by Marita Walther and her husband Bernhard, offers locals and tourists a sustainable way of getting around the Namibian countryside. The couple have introduced solar powered e-bikes to Namibia, which are proving to be so popular, their business is rapidly expanding.
| image via suncycles
"For a country with inadequate public transport systems and a general cultural aversion towards bicycles, the uptake in Namibia has been surprisingly good, Marita Walther said in an interview with Disrupt Africa.
The electric bikes are similar to a regular bicycle, but have a battery powered motor that gives the rider a little extra oomph when tackling hills or longer distances. The batteries are charged by solar energy, and as there is an abundance of sunlight in Namibia, it costs nothing to recharge them. Their products range from DIY e-bike conversion kits that convert any regular bike into an solar powered machine, to fat bikes and foldable fat bikes, mountain bikes, city cruisers, and their signature locally manufactured Kalahar-e-BushBike.
"Knowing that many people in our environment often spend large amounts of their disposable income on energy and mobility, we decided to provide a solution that could cater to those needs," Walther said.
SunCycles also provides local entrepreneurs with a retrofitted shipping container, or SunBox, kitted out with batteries, solar panels, solar home systems, electric scooters and bikes. These solar hubs operate as independent business enterprises supporting the daily energy and transport needs of the local communities they service.
"Our solution combines knowledge and skills from a local workforce, taking a holistic approach to supporting local entrepreneurs. With solar and mobility services that can be resold at affordable prices to the community, it aims to strengthen independency from fossil fuels and multinational corporations," said Walther.
SunCycles has recently begun partnering with private companies and local NGOs to expand their services to both the tourism and wildlife conservation sectors, and according to Walther, the response has been surprisingly good. E-bikes offer a unique and eco-friendly way for tourists to enjoy sightseeing trips around their accommodation establishment, particularly hotels and lodges that are located in remote locations where other means of transport is lacking. Similarly, e-bikes can enable game rangers cover larger distances and thus help to combat poaching activities.
"We support a growing number of local tourism establishments with eco-friendly sightseeing alternatives, offer e-bike technology all over the country, have provided e-bikes and solar recharge facilities to rhino rangers and game guards in remote stations, and support rural teachers and health workers across Namibia and other African communities," said Walther.
Besides the tourism and conservation related partnerships they have established, SunCycles has also partnered with NGOs to deliver bicycles, including solar powered bicycle ambulances, to remote communities to improve the quality of life and health of local inhabitants.
SunCycles has a strong social responsibility commitment to the communities that it works with.
"Because we're a young company, we do not have the financial means to support these projects single-handedly, so we often combine forces with bigger, environmentally-conscious organisations or financing institutions in order to have a larger impact," Walther said. "As an example, we've recently delivered e-bikes to rhino rangers working in a remote conservancy in western Namibia, a collaborative project with the tour operator Ultimate Safaris through its Conservation Travel Foundation. We've also delivered e-bikes to kindergarten teachers and game guards in rural areas, in partnership with the Bicycling Empowerment Network and FNB Foundation."
To date, the company has rolled out about 100 solar powered bicycles of all descriptions to a variety of clients and projects all across the country. They are now looking at expanding their reach to all areas of Namibia, as well as to neighbouring countries, and have already provided a few e-bike taxis to a Ugandan project they have partnered with.