Kekehs (also called auto rickshaws or tuk-tuks) are common three-wheel vehicles on the roads in many Liberian cities and towns.

Emergi, a Dutch company, explores how Kekehs can become powered by electricity. EnDev consulted them how such electric Kekehs could then be charged with solar electricity, and offered a free charging station at their 100% solar office.

On December 4 and 5, Emergi led a “hackathon” or design challenge in partnership with Liberian entrepreneurs towards urban electric vehicles that could be suited for Liberia. The two-day design challenge was part of a larger research mission to understand the needs of customers and users of the small urban electric vehicles that Emergi will be developing and producing. The “hackathon” participants consisted of Liberians who had shown an interest in the project, and were electrical engineers, representatives from the renewable energy sector, engineering students, entrepreneurs and infrastructure experts.

Over the two days, the participants, received training from the Emergi team and later got to put their learning into action. Richard van Hoolwerff, the founder of Emergi, gave an introduction session on entrepreneurship. Design experts, Juan Miguel Ramirez and Ragna Pettinga, introduced industrial design and design thinking and facilitated the activities based on the Stanford design process below.

Insights from Emergi’s month of interviews with Kehkeh drivers, owners and other stakeholders had led to five overarching challenges: how to…

  • Get more female kehkeh drivers – enabling wider social and economic impact
  • Make more money with a kehkeh – to maximize wealth for drivers and their families;
  • Improve payment systems- to enable higher kehkeh usage rates;
  • Ensure driving on renewable energy – invaluable for the environment and given the high cost of fuel in Liberia;
  • Empower the kehkeh driver - to ensure the sector is better run and less hindered by the day to day challenges in Liberia.

Focusing on the Empathize, Define, and Ideate stages of the design process, the group brainstormed, shared ideas, and discussed opportunities, challenges and solutions. Towards the ideal sustainable urban vehicle for Liberia.

The next steps are to develop and, ultimately, soft pilot the best ideas withmanufacturing partners and Liberian companies The pilot results will be used to create fit for purpose electric kehkehs and other small urban vehicles for Liberia, and then the wider West African market.

Leandra Stolk, a graphic designer, supporting the Emergi team for these two days, captured some of the design challenge in the visualisation below.