Electric mobility firm Roam steps up motorcycle assembly


Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers (KVM) has been awarded the contract to assemble Roam’s first fully electric shuttle bus. FILE PHOTO | POOL

Swedish-Kenyan electric vehicle firm Roam has opened a larger plant off Nairobi’s Mombasa Road that it expects to assemble up to 50,000 motorcycles per year in the medium term.

The facility also serves as its East African headquarters. Besides the making of its Roam Air electric motorcycle plant, the facility will house a battery and development lab.

“The new premises have an annual production capacity of upwards of 50,000 motorcycles that will be reached in a couple of years and will enable the company to ramp up production of the Roam Air, the company’s electric motorcycle,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.

The Roam Air retails for $1,500 (Sh204,120 at current exchange rates). Its dual battery has a range (distance covered) of 140 kilometres. The motorcycle has a top speed of 90 kilometres per hour.

Roam is among the early players in the electric mobility space that is set to become dominant in the future as more countries restrict or ban internal combustion vehicles and motorcycles to protect the habitat.

The company is also piloting an electric bus dubbed Roam Rapid in Nairobi ahead of potential mass production.

The assembly of electric motorcycles has become more attractive after the government issued tax incentives to encourage home production.

Locally assembled electric motorcycles are exempt from excise duty (Sh11,608 per unit). The parts headed for the assembly plants are also charged a lower import duty of 10 percent.

Locally assembled motorcycles running on petrol are still more competitive in terms of pricing but the appeal of electric units is seen in their lower long-term ownership or running costs.

A previous study backed by UKaid indicated that petrol motorbike riders earn about $120 (Sh16,300) per month but could save 35 percent by going electric.

Sales of motorcycles have exploded over the past decade with individuals, logistics firms and public transport riders being the main buyers.

Official statistics show that the number of motorcycles in the country rose from 1.308 million in 2017 to 2.258 million in 2021, representing a compound annual growth rate of 11.54 percent over the five years.

Motorcycles are popular due to their suitability for fast and efficient transport, especially in major cities and towns that are plagued by traffic jams.

They are also effective at reaching last-mile destinations in both urban and rural areas.

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