14 Mar 23

Roam opens Africa’s largest e-bike plant in Nairobi

Roam, a Swedish-Kenyan manufacturer of electric motorbikes, has just opened a 10,000-m2 plant in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. This makes Roam Park is the largest such factory in Africa. It will turn out 50,000 e-bikes per year.

Roam is the new name of OpiBus. Founded in 2017, it is one of many companies operating in Kenya’s thriving e-mobility ecosystem. As that name suggests, the company also has ambitions for manufacturing electric buses. Manufacturing of the company’s 90-seater Rapid Bus hasn’t materialized yet (hence perhaps the name-change). 

Roam Air

However, its electric motorcycle component has taken off. The e-bike, named Roam Air (pictured), was made possible thanks to a deal with M-Kopa, an Africa-based financing platform. Roam’s new location in Nairobi brings together manufacturing, battery lab, distribution and storage as well as corporate HQ, creating a ‘technology hub’. 

The site is managed by Brett Mangel, the company’s COO and formerly of Tesla. Now employing 150 designers, engineers and manufacturers, it is expected to ramp up annual production to around 50,000 units in a couple of years. 

It’s clear that the market for e-bikes in Kenya is huge. That’s not surprising, seeing that two-thirds of vehicles on the road in Kenya are motorcycles, and their numbers are still growing. The ‘boda boda’ industry – taxis and deliveries via motorcycles – is a large part of the economy. 

Homegrown e-mobility

Meanwhile, a homegrown e-mobility ecosystem is blossoming, including such companies as

  • Ecobodaa, a startup that provides affordable electric motorcycles with two batteries and a 160-km range. L    ike many of its competitors, the company offers battery swapping rather than charging.
  • Kiri Electric, another electric motorcycle manufacturer that offers ‘swap cabinets’, where drivers can obtain loaded batteries 24/7. 
  • BasiGo, an electric bus startup that aims to have 1,000 electric buses on the road by 2025. 
  • ChargeNet Kenya, operator of a charging hub network in Nairobi. 
  • KenGen, short for the state-owned Kenya Electricity Generating Company, pledged to install the first 30 of many charging points this year. 

Roam Air e-bikes can already be reserved online. Prices start at around $1,500 (€1,400), which is steep for Africa. However, M-Kopa will sell the vehicles on credit, lowering the entry barrier for ordinary Kenyan (and other African) customers.

Image: Roam

Authored by: Frank Jacobs