As the Siemens Stiftung’s “Testing E-Mobility Business Models at WE Hub Victoria Limited in Kenya” field report says, “Mobility is the basis for the overall development of a society: it gives the population access to jobs, markets, social facilities, and health care. In addition, mobility itself creates jobs.”
Access to reliable and affordable transport services can be a major growth driver for many countries on the African continent, where currently the majority of the population lack access to reliable transport services. Increasing access to mass transit services, and in particular, cleaner transport services such as high capacity electric buses, will be a key enabler for economic development. The transport sector is also a major contributor of emissions, and therefore accelerating the adoption of electromobility is critical. High capacity electric buses will allow the majority of the commuting public to have access to electric mobility sooner rather than later, as private transport options such as car ownership are out of reach for a lot of people.
Roam (prev. Opibus), a Swedish-Kenyan technology company founded in 2017 that develops, designs and deploys electric vehicles tailored for the African continent, wants to catalyze the adoption of high capacity electric buses across Africa. Roam has just announced the launch of a new electric mass transit bus, the Roam Rapid. The Roam Rapid is specifically designed to address the unique challenges of public transport in Nairobi and Africa as a whole. The Roam Rapid offers a solution for the growing number of cities implementing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems across the continent and is the first of its kind in Kenya.
Roam says that the Rapid is the first bus in Kenya designed for mass transit. It has a high capacity of 90 passengers, allowing for ample room and efficient boarding and disembarking of commuters with both seating and standing areas. The bus has priority seats for the elderly and people with limited mobility, extended legroom, designated areas for wheelchairs, and a low-floor entry for easy access. Roam aspires to create a new perception on public transport vehicles by providing a mobility solution that is inclusive, modern, efficient, and sustainable.
Roam’s Rapid has zero tailpipe emissions and low noise pollution, paving the way for the next generation public transport system in Africa. Kenya’s grid is mostly powered by renewable energy, meaning that these electric buses will be charged from some very clean electricity. Renewables provided 89% of Kenya’s electricity generation in 2021, thanks to contributions from geothermal, wind, hydro, and some utility-scale solar. Kenya is one of the major players in the geothermal space and is in the top 10 in the world when it comes to geothermal installed capacity. Kenya’s installed geothermal capacity is now close to 1,000 MW. Kenya has a lot more room to add more geothermal, with an estimated potential of 10,000 MW! This dependable, renewable geothermal energy can anchor the growth of the economy in line with Kenya’s industrialization agenda and ensure enough electricity supply to catalyze the growth of the electric mobility sector as well the electric vehicle assembly and manufacturing industries.
All this locally generated clean renewable electricity can help enhance Kenya’s energy security, as well as reduce costs in the transport sector. Roam says that operational costs can be lowered by up to 50% and that the ease of after-sale reduces down-time, enabling higher margins for the operator but also lower costs for the commuters, creating a new standard for transport on the African continent.
Kenya also stands to benefit quite a lot from substituting a significant portion of imported petroleum products with this locally generated clean electricity by accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles such as these high capacity buses. Imports of petroleum products contribute a huge chunk to Kenya’s import bill.
The Roam Rapid has an extended range that enables the operators to run their buses for a full day without worrying about charging. The bus is equipped with a 384 kWh battery pack that allows for a range of 360 km. It also has the ability to fully charge in less than 2 hours through DC charging ports. This gives operators full flexibility to decide their charging and operating schedule, either fully charging at night or including a brief midday charge to top up the battery.
The focus for the bus has been to design a robust vehicle with best in class carrying capacity, range, and comfort to enable mass adoption of clean transport across the continent. Roam also has strong localization plans that includes local partners. The buses will be assembled locally, but also partly manufactured in the region. A strong local presence will ease after-sale services and provide many jobs, helping to tackle the rising unemployment rate.
“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.” — Dennis Wakaba, Project Coordinator, Roam
Roam Mass Transit Specifications:
- Battery capacity: 384 kWh
- Range: 360 km
- Dimensions (LxHxW): 12500 x 3300 x 2550 mm
- Top speed: 70 km/h
- Seat capacity: Up to 90 passengers
- Weight: 18,000 kg
- Fastest charging time: 2 hours (DC fast charging)
- Air conditioning for extra comfort
- Low-floor entry with kneeling ability for easy to access
- Wide doors with wheelchair ramp
- Extra leg room space for comfort
- Four priority seats for elder or people with disabilities
- Three large double doors
Images courtesy of ROAM
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