Electric Motorcycle a Sustainable Saviour for Africa

Nairobi, Kenya

Motorcycles provide essential mobility for many Africans and can now offer a more sustainable mode of transport, courtesy of Kenyan company Roam and its new lightweight and very cheap electric bike launched last month.

The Roam Air – designed, developed and built in Kenya – can travel up to 180km on a pair of removable batteries, and has been developed to suit the needs of African riders in rural and urban areas. It costs the equivalent of A$2,132 for a single-battery bike and A$2,914 for a dual-battery version.

African residents bought 3.5 million new motorcycles in 2016 and sales are expected to top 10 million a year in the early 2030s.

Low-cost and sturdy motorcycles have become indispensable as commuter transport, delivery vehicles and moto taxis. Roam, a Swedish-Kenyan company based in Nairobi, is marketing the Air as a cost-effective option for that sector.

“This motorcycle is the first fully adapted electric motorcycle for the commercial market on the continent, while at the same time almost reaching price parity with local petrol motorcycles – and with up to 70% lower running cost,” according to a statement from Roam.

The Air produces a peak power output of 185 Nm (136 lb-ft) and, weighing only135kg, can reach its top speed of 90 kph in about five seconds. It can accommodate up to 220kg in total – passengers and cargo – and will travel 90km on a single 3.24-kWh battery or 180km with dual batteries.

The Air has five power modes, including reverse.

Production is scheduled to start later this year with a limited-edition series costing an extra $500.

Deliveries will start later this year, says Roam, on the first “limited production” series, costing $500 extra.

The company says it will scale up its production in Nairobi in the coming months, with volume-production bikes expected to be available from 2023.

Founded in 2017, Roam was also the first company to deliver locally produced electric buses. In addition, it produces electro-conversion 4X4s and commercial and residential solar systems.

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