Opibus was initially founded out of a research project in Sweden in 2017 and has grown rapidly, setting up in Kenya as a test market for the growth across Africa and beyond. Over the years significant milestones have been achieved, serving several customers with a wide range of products. The company has brought together like minded people on a mission to identify where electric mobility could have the largest possible impact.
The main focus initially was to convert vehicles to electric for the safari, mining and utility markets. All these areas have unique aspects that are significantly enhanced by electric vehicle usage; mining doesn't require as much ventilation underground, safaris get closer to the animals, and all sectors cease requiring the transport of fossil fuels to remote places. They can produce all their energy through solar panels right where they are. The company successfully deployed many initial electric vehicle conversions and continued to develop other platforms, deploying the first African designed and developed electric motorcycle and electric bus; a new era for the company.
Africa's population is among the fastest-growing and youngest in the world with its urban cities growing at unprecedented rates. The number of people living in Africa’s cities is expected to expand by 600 million over the next two decades, making it the world's most populous region.
This profound growth has led to an energy demand for industrial production, infrastructure and mobility. As a result, there has been notable development of the transport network to accommodate these needs.
Unfortunately, the current modes of transport contribute to one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon emissions in the world. Emissions from the transportation sector in Africa are growing at a rate of 7% annually. Moreover, poor fuel quality, aging vehicle fleet, and lack of mandatory roadworthy emission tests are key reasons for the increasing transport pollution and emissions.
Despite Africa being the smallest contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; accounting for just 3.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is most vulnerable when it comes to the adverse effects of the climate crisis.
To further support the statistics Landrigan, Director of Boston College's Global Observatory on Pollution and Health stated, "While this increase is still modest, it threatens to increase exponentially as African cities grow in the next two to three decades and the continent develops economically." In other words, the rising ambient pollution is not only a reflection of the continent's population growth but also an increase in fossil fuel use.
Our focus has therefore expanded. Opibus needed to change, it changed to Roam. Roam is on a pathway that has a clear vision, to electrifying the African transport and energy system through reliable, accessible and connected products. This shift means we will focus on mass utilization products; products that are used all day, everyday.
This means we move beyond our initial conversions and expand into new segments. The products are the next generation of our prototypes and will be divided under the Roam brand with the following segments: Roam Motorcycles, Roam Transit (buses), Roam Energy & Charging, and Muse (our conversions for the Mining, Utility and Safari segment).
To better represent our unfolding path on the continent, we chose the name Roam. Roam means to travel over a wide area, signifying the company's exploration of the African continent. This change comes following our expansion to new emerging markets, and most notably our strategic shift to target more on these areas within the transport system that are the biggest carbon emitters. Roam is intended to reflect the company's ambition to electrify Africa's transportation sector, as well as our boldness in delivering disruptive technologies, optimized for the local use case.
Under Roam, our focus will remain on electric vehicles and energy system solutions, and the mass transportation sector which has recently emerged as an area with the greatest impact on transportation.
The CEO Filip Lövström shares why the rapid urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa will be a vital part of Africa's infrastructure. "We really think that electric buses are a huge part of how to create this transition to electric vehicles, and how to reduce emissions on both a city and global level," he says. To further emphasize the potential of the public transport industry, the Co-founder of the company Filip Gardler stated in an interview that “The industry has a lot of potential because of their predetermined routes points, simplifying infrastructure deployment, creating huge opportunities for electric mobility.”
As part of our initiative toward the transformation of the mass transit industry, Roam launched the first African made electric bus in a pilot program. This vehicle is the foundation upon which we will continue to build our knowledge base for the African market, enabling us to optimize our electric buses to fit the market needs of the people with the shortest return on investment. All in all, creating an ecosystem solution for our transport systems.
In addition to the public transport industry, another emerging market that we focus on is the motorcycle taxi and delivery so called “boda-boda” industry. This industry is the fastest growing industry not only in Kenya but in most parts of the world. Unlike vehicles, motorcycles cost much less to buy and run, are more convenient in urban environments, they run well on inadequate infrastructure, can carry flexible kinds of load and access very remote areas. And of course, what makes them most popular in cities is their ability to maneuver traffic and congestion.
The motorcycle industry is currently the single largest employer in Kenya, estimated to employ over 1.2 million youth. The sector is booming with over 1.6 million motorcycles registered in Kenya, growing with an average of 16,500 new imports per month.
So in 2019 we began designing and developing our first model of electric motorcycle to match the local boda-boda needs, says Lövström. "We need something that is very strong, versatile, robust, easy to repair and cheap at the same time".
We have deployed 150 motorcycles to date both in and outside of Kenya; with trials running with different partners in Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
Since the first pilots, the motorcycle has evolved from having a single battery module to having two swappable batteries, in addition to using a portable charger that can plug into any normal socket.
The conversion of 4x4 vehicles was where the company came from, and it is the foundation of so much of the knowledge and ambition. This product will continue under a sub-brand focusing on these smaller segments as stated in our name MiningUtilitySafariEVs.
Additionally, we have our energy & charging products which focus on providing solutions for our other products, and many other applications. This ensures that the products we deploy have a full ecosystem solution that can be created for off- or on-grid usage.
This segment aims to be tightly combined with all our products as well as provide separate solutions for all players on the market bringing together the whole system to have one unified approach.
Despite Africa being the continent with the lowest automotive rates in the world, it holds the key to global energy transitions as it is the continent with all of the important ingredients for producing critical technologlogies run on renewable for a large portion of the global population. Roam is more than a name, it represents our ongoing bold entry into emerging markets across Africa. As a globally recognized company, Roam seeks to provide and implement solutions that will mitigate the escalating climate change, while building the knowledge base from Africa for Africa and the world.
Onwards and Upwards.
Press Images: Link