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Roam unveils new EV bus model to tap Kenya’s public transport sector

Roam, an electric vehicle startup based in Kenya, has unveiled a new shuttle model dubbed Move, as the East African country continues to push for the adoption of electric vehicles.

Roam (formerly Opibus) now plans to increase its production of Move buses and expand its charging infrastructure, as it anticipates growth in demand for electric buses following the acceleration of electric vehicle adoption in Kenya, amid skyrocketing fuel prices, and calls for a shift to sustainable transport options.

Roam will deliver 50 Move buses by February next year and plans to produce 40 units per month at full production capacity. The 42-seat buses, with a range of 200 kilometers, are assembled locally with parts from China and will cost $135,000. The bus can also be built to carry 52 people.

Roam, which designs its own buses, says it builds them to local requirements, including high ground clearance. “Building the bodywork locally also improves our design offering; we can move the door, build more trunk space, adapt preferred window fittings or add air conditioning, etc. Roam national sales manager Dennis Wakaba told TechCrunch.

The launch of Roam Move comes after the company revealed plans in 2021 to launch electric buses to complement its motorcycle production business. This also follows the launch of Roam Rapid in July, which aims to operate the planned (now stalled) Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Kenya, which was intended to be powered by green vehicles (electric, hybrid and biodiesel ). Its main competitor, BasiGo, already has dozens of electric buses on the main roads of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Founded in 2017 by Gardler, Filip Lövström and Mikael Gånge, Roam previously specialized in automobile conversions, before moving into the production of electric vehicles.

“We started by designing our own electric powertrains in 2018 and we have a lot of expertise in-house. We have this skill in-house which gives us more flexibility in what products we can bring to market,” Wakaba said.

Roam is backed by Silicon Valley fund At One Ventures, Factor[e] Ventures and pan-African venture capital firm Ambo Ventures,
The introduction of the Move bus follows Kenya’s continued efforts towards the adoption of electric vehicles, by zero-taxing the provision of electric buses and bicycles and exempting imported and locally assembled motorcycles from excise duty, in the current finance law. The country also has special tariffs for electricity.

Last week, the 2023 Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging and Battery Swapping Infrastructure Guidelines were released by the Kenya Energy Authority to, among other things, accelerate the construction of public charging stations, which remains a major obstacle to their adoption.

As Kenya prepares for the transition from fossil fuel vehicles, overall the adoption of electric mobility in Africa remains slow compared to the developed world due to a number of challenges, including weak electricity grids , insufficient charging infrastructure and high acquisition costs of electric vehicles.


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