Africa's own electric motorcycle, the $1,500 Roam Air
The Roam Air is cheap, lightweight, practically focused, and capable of riding up to 180 km (111 miles) on a pair of removable batteries. It's been designed, developed and built in Kenya, to suit the needs of African riders in rural and urban areas.
African residents bought 3.5 million new motorcycles in 2016, a figure that's expected to top 10 million a year in the early 2030s. As in many developing areas with inadequate public transport, cheap, hardy bikes have become indispensable as commuter transport, delivery vehicles and moto taxis.
Nairobi-based Roam, which also makes electric buses, electro-conversion 4X4s and commercial and residential solar systems, has thus presented the home-grown Air, purpose-built for the task and the conditions. It's a simple machine, with a lightweight metal cradle frame, offroad-capable wheels, cheap 'n' cheerful dual-shock suspension, easy ergonomics, a bench seat for two and a tough-looking rear luggage rack.
The motor puts out a peak of 185 Nm (136 lb-ft), and with the bike weighing just 135 kg (298 lb), that's enough to get you to the bike's top speed of 90 km/h (56 mph) in around five seconds. The bike will carry up to 220 kg (485 lb) of combined passengers and cargo, and take you up to 90 km (56 miles) on a single 3.24-kWh battery, or twice that if you use both.
The Air offers five power modes, one of which being reverse. It offers a small storage compartment where the tank normally sits, and the batteries are held in by what appears to be a slim, padlockable latch. Personally, if I was buying, I'd be asking for some upgrades to that part, as batteries are valuable, useful, and attractive to thieves – particularly with little carry handles on them.
Roam is very much pitching the Air as a money saver, pointing out that its running costs are so low for daily riders that if bought on finance, the Air is immediately cheaper per day than an equivalent petrol-powered 150cc scoot. Indeed, the company has kept prices impressively low for a practically specified electric bike, at US$1,500 for a single-battery bike and $2,050 for a dual-battery version.
Deliveries will start later this year, says Roam, on the first "limited production" series, costing $500 extra. Volume-production bikes will start being delivered in 2023.
Check out a video below.