Electric buses are making inroads in Nairobi, Kenya
3:50 AM EST, Fri February 10, 2023
A Roam Rapid electric bus in Nairobi, Kenya. At least two mobility startups are looking to make inroads in the city's transport market with modern, sustainable alternatives to Nairobi's ubiquitous matatus (privately owned and operated minibuses).
The Roam Rapid can seat up to 90 people and has a range of over 360 kilometers (224 miles). The bus has undergone four pilot schemes and is currently being trialed on Thika Road, a major highway in the capital.
For now, charging is only available at Roam's workshop in the city, although the company says permission to install publicly-accessible chargers in certain locations has already been granted.
Roam is also developing a smaller bus called the Roam Move, designed for the Kenyan market and to operate on smaller routes. It is still in the prototype phase (pictured here in February 2022), and the company aims to have a model in use in October 2023.
PATRICK MEINHARDT/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
BasiGo is another mobility startup operating in Nairobi. It is importing bus kits from Chinese electric vehicle giant BYD and assembling them locally.
BasiGo started with a two-bus pilot in March 2022. Now it is about to bring a further 15 buses to market, and aims to have 100 buses on the road by the end of 2023.
The two 25-seat buses have carried 175,000 passengers and driven over 135,000 kilometers (84,000 miles) to date during the trial period in Dandora, a neighborhood in east Nairobi.
BasiGo is selling its buses to the private market through a "Pay As You Drive" scheme which will see the company retain ownership of the vehicles' batteries. Charging infrastructure is being deployed along popular routes, says CEO Jit Bhattacharya. The aim, he says, is to transition to electric "with no behavior change" on the part of drivers.