Is this the most important new motorcycle you’ve never heard of?

The ROAM Air - the first electric motorcycle from Kenyan-Swedish company - is the first EV two-wheel model to be developed on the African continent 

ROAM Air

If you consider yourself something of an ‘anorak’ when it comes to motorcycling and you can tell the difference between a Suzuki GSX-S125 and Haojue DR250, or have heard of brands as Italika - a Brazilian marque ranked as the tenth biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world - then hats and  helmets off to you.

Indeed, while Visordown keeps you abreast of all the big names and significant launches from around the world, now and again it is an unassuming motorcycle that pops up to exceed all others in terms of significance.

Allow us to explain… Meet the ROAM Air. 

OK, so it doesn’t appear to be the most exciting two-wheeler hitting the road on the plant right now.

The Air is a modestly-sized, small-capacity style motorcycle. It’s not an exciting looker because though we admire the effort paid to the front headlight and cowl arrangement, we had to glance twice - three or four times in fact - to check those weren’t filing cabinets lurking between the wheels (we’ll come back to that).

What the ROAM Air is, however, electric and we all know how ‘du jour’ they are right now.

But even then that is only half of the story because this here is the first purpose-built EV motorcycle to emerge from the entire African continent.

Founded in 2017 under its erstwhile name ‘Opibus’, the Kenyan company - with a bit of help from friends in Sweden - has set about encouraging the conversion of Africa’s many ageing, polluting commercial and SUV motors to electric over the last five years.

However, after a rebrand to ROAM and the acquisition of $7.5 million investment from a record-breaking funding campaign, it has just unveiled the Air, making it the first company in motorcycle-mad Africa to do so.

So while you may raise an eyebrow in accordance with this headline, the ROAM Air’s significance towards Africa’s green movement has the potential to be huge. Indeed, around a quarter of all motorised vehicles sold in Africa are motorcycles, which values the market at $9 billion.

So while the sparse continent as a whole doesn’t harm the environment as much as Asia, pollution is nonetheless high in more urban nations such as Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia.

These areas also feature popular so-called ‘motorcycle taxi’ services, an industry ROAM has been quick to capitalise on by going into partnership with Uber to deploy 3,000 of its Air motorcycle around the continent.

What does the ROAM Air offer?

Well, going back to those bulky units that appear to have been pinched from the office supplies closet, they are in fact a dual-battery system that combines for a range of 112 miles of range - impressive for such a small motorcycle.

They are also removable, with the dual set-up meaning it can still operate on one battery while the other is being recharged.

The Air also comes with four riding modes and a top speed of 56mph, plus an always handy USB charging point.

Priced at $1,500 (or £1,250 directly converted), the ROAM Air certainly looks like a bargain to British eyes, though it is pricier than most options available on the continent. However, ROAM counters this by insisting savings can be recuperated quickly through much lower running costs.

It’s unlikely the ROAM Air will ever roam these roads but given the push towards electric in other corners of the world, its status as Africa’s first electric motorcycle should not be underestimated if it runs unopposed in the EV sector and gets a significant portion of the continent’s population to convert.