ROAM launches first electric mass-transit bus in Africa


Swedish-Kenyan mobility company ROAM has followed up the launch of its first production-intent model of electric motorcycles with the launch of its first all-electric bus built for mass transit in Africa. The ROAM Rapid is an electric bus specifically designed to address the unique challenges of public transport in Nairobi and Africa as a whole. Check it out.

ROAM was founded in 2017 under its original monicker, Opibus before it saw a rebranding this past April. It remains headquartered in Kenya where it develops, designs, and manufactures electric vehicles to help transition the African continent toward a future of more sustainable transportation.

Its projects include EV conversions of mining SUVs and energy storage, plus ground-up builds of passenger buses and electric motorcycles. Following the largest funding round ever for an African electric mobility company ($7.5 million), ROAM partnered with Uber to deploy over 3,000 electric motorcycles throughout Africa this year.

That production-intent bike, called the ROAM Air, officially launched this past July and will now be joined by ROAM’s next EV launch, the all electric Rapid transit bus.

ROAM launches Rapid electric bus, the first of its kind in Kenya

ROAM shared news of its mass transit bus in a press release this evening (Wednesday morning in Africa). According to the company, the Rapid bus features priority seats for the elderly and people with limited mobility, extended legroom, and designated areas for wheelchairs, in addition to a low-floor entry for easier commuter access.

Previously, ROAM has offered EV-converted versions of combustion transit buses to routes in Africa, but it introduced the first iteration of this purpose-built electric bus this past January. Today’s latest version is a lot more polished and has its official model name.

The company stated that in addition to providing countries like Kenya with zero-emission mobility solutions, it hopes the Rapid electric bus can create a new perception of public transport vehicles by providing a solution that is “inclusive, modern, efficient, and sustainable.”

It offers much less noise pollution as well, an urban issue ROAM says it has been working to reduce since its inception. ROAM project coordinator Dennis Wakaba spoke about the new bus:

The solution Roam brings to the Kenyan market enables us to move people safely, comfortably and timely in both a sustainable and affordable way. The bus is designed not only to increase comforts and lower cost but more importantly focuses on the well- being of the population through reduced noise pollution and eliminating local emissions, improving air quality for the cities across Africa.

According to ROAM, its focus in designing the Rapid electric bus was to create a vehicle with best-in-class carrying capacity, range, and comfort in order to enable mass adoption of clean transport across all of Africa.

By going electric, operational costs can be lowered by up to 50%, enabling higher margins for the operator but also lower cost for the commuters. Here are some additional specs:

  • Battery Capacity: 384 kWh
  • Range: 360 km (~224 miles)
  • Dimensions (LxHxW): 12,500 x 3,300 x 2,550 mm (41 x 10.8 x 8.4 ft)
  • Top Speed: 70 km/h (~44 mph)
  • Seat capacity: Up to 90 passengers
  • Weight: 18,000 kg (39,683 lbs)
  • Fastest Charging time: 2 hours
  • Other features:
    • Air conditioning and extra legroom
    • Three wide doors and a wheelchair ramp
    • Four priority seats for elderly/disabled
    • DC fast charging capabilities

ROAM says it has a strong group of local partners to ensure the electric buses are assembled locally, but also partly manufactured in the region. This can provide more local jobs and help to tackle the rising unemployment rate in Kenya.

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