Johannesburg - With sky rocketing petrol prices - this week saw petrol prices shoot to R26.70 a litre inland, the highest on record - many South Africans are looking for alternative transport solutions.
This is where forward-thinking entrepreneurs such as Fezile Dhlamini and his green scooter come in.
Dhlamini, 30, is an entrepreneur with some big ideas. Ideas that put him at the forefront of renewable energy innovation.
Video: Supplied/Green Scooter
Dhlamini is the founder and CEO of Green Scooter, a proudly South African mini mobility electric vehicle manufacturing company.
At present, the vehicles come in two variants the Zbee RS which is a passenger vehicle, and the Zbee Cargo which is a delivery vehicle.
The three-wheel vehicles are both fully electric and can be charged from a normal two or three-phase wall socket and the vehicles take about three and a half hours to fully charge. A single charge will give a driver a range of over 100km.
Before you roll your eyes and say how can South Africa, hard hit by load shedding causing rolling black outs even consider an electric vehicle - Dhlamini has a plan.
He plans on addressing the unreliable power supply issues by adopting a battery swapping system where users can exchange empty batteries for full ones to mitigate the problems unreliable power can cause. Quite frankly, this is a strategy he could look to employ in South Africa on other electric issues as well if load shedding persists.
Dhlamini describes how he conceptualised the idea for his vehicles. He describes it as divine intervention.
“The divine intervention was me spotting a lady disembarking a taxi with grocery bags. I was in Richards Bay at the time and I knew she would have to walk another five kilometres to get home because taxis don't service the distance between her stop and her home” he said.
Dhlamini identified this as a problem he wanted to solve. During his consideration of a solution, he acknowledged the existence of e-hailing services and meter taxis and came to the conclusion that those services were probably too expensive for users.
The hot and humid weather conditions in Richards Bay inspired Dhlamini’s electric scooter idea.
“I had to think of the next form of transportation. It was hot and I thought of the sun. I thought let's build something non-fossil fueled which led me to electric which leads me to a mini mobility solution.” he said.
Dhlamini’s business is based on three objectives which are job creation, skills development, and zero carbon emissions.
He highlights that when he speaks about job creation it is not only with his own company. The emphasis is on the fact that his vehicles are perfect for individuals who want to start their own businesses. Whether it is for ferrying commuters around cities or for making deliveries between two points.
His business model will also allow potential customers to connect with food delivery services and courier companies.
Dhlamini’s vehicles are also safer in comparison to similar moped vehicles on the market.
“The vehicle is made of reinforced fiberglass, it is the only vehicle in its class, globally, that has crash test reporting and has a three-point safety belt. So we are the Tesla of three*-wheelers. We do perform stress testing on the safety belts.”
The service requirements are minimal; there is no need for regular service as the electric power train is maintenance-free.
Dhlamini plans on expanding to other parts of Africa including Nigeria where he sees a potential for growth based on the sheer number of people in that country.
Dhlamini’s efforts have not gone unnoticed as evidenced by the number of awards his relatively young company has won including being recognised as one of the top 50 start-ups globally.
Green Scooter won the Top Technology Brand award at the recent inaugural Top 16 Youth-Owned Brands. Dhlamini sees these awards as validation of the work he has been doing but does not want to rest on his laurels.
He says “A lot of people do believe in me and my company so it feels great but I still feel I need to do more.”