Roam opens large-scale electric motorcycle plant in Kenya
Swedish-Kenyan company Roam will produce over 50,000 electric motorbikes a year at a new factory in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. The company considers the 10,000 sqm facility, Roam Park, Africa’s largest such plant. It also forms Roam’s new HQ and battery lab.
It is not the first time we hear of Roam. The company was formerly OpiBus and announced a deal over electric buses made in Africa in the summer of last year. Already at the time, Roam had big plans for electric motorcycles as well and secured a deal with the African financing platform M-Kopa.
So now the time has come to actually make (more) of the electric motorbikes called Roam Air.
The new Roam Park in Nairobi has an annual production capacity of upwards of 50,000 motorcycles that Roam says they will reach in a couple of years. Brett Mangel manages the plant as Chief Operations Officer and formerly worked at Tesla.
“Moving ahead with this new production facility represents a significant step forward in bringing sustainable mobility solutions to Kenya,” said Mangel. “With some of the brightest talent, key partners, and access to a good infrastructure and logistics network, Roam is confident that this new location is a step in the right direction.”
The new plant and HQ are off Mombasa Road overlooking the Nairobi National Park. The site houses production, distribution, and storage operations creating a “technology hub,” so Roam—over 150 staff work there in design, engineering and production.
Founded in 2017, Roam set out to become the first company to deliver locally-produced electric motorcycles and buses.
However, today’s statement makes no mention of the buses. When announced in 2022, Roam said the buses would be assembled in collaboration with local partners, while some manufacturing processes would be carried out elsewhere in the region.
At the time, the Roam Rapid bus was specified for up to 90 passengers. The 384-kWh battery pack should enable a range of 360 kilometres. The bus has a top speed of 70 km/h, and the battery can be fully charged in less than two hours via DC charging ports.
Electric motorcycle market in Africa
While we are waiting to hear what has come out of the planned bus rollout in Nairobi, the market potential for e-motorcycles is huge. With about 200,000 motorbikes registered on Kenyan roads each year, the “boda-boda” industry, as it is called, is big business for small-income earners. Motorbikes are used for taxi services and logistics and remain the main transport for many people.
And Roam is by no means the only company providing electric motorbikes in Kenya; these include Fika Mobility and Alternet Systems (ALYI) with ReVolt motorcycles.
Still, when explaining their focus, Mikael Gånge, Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer of Roam, said they wanted to provide a “compelling environmental and economical solution” for markets yet untouched by e-mobility.
The starting price for the Roam Air is $1,500, and the electric motorbike can be reserved online.
While the pricing seems steep, Roam signed a large-scale supply agreement with African financing platform M-Kopa for its electric motorbikes last August. The fintech company provides loans and digital financial services to unbanked consumers in Africa. The deal with Roam will allow the company to sell electric motorbikes on credit, lowering customers’ barriers to entry through affordable payment plans.