E-Mobility Revolution: Evolution of Electric Motorcycles in Kenya

Daniel Mwangi
15 Min Read
Image of Roam Air Motorcycle

This article will explore the genesis of electric motorcycles in Kenya, the growing demand, and the various dealers making all this possible. We will also look at the various benefits of this eco-friendly mode of mobility.

The Genesis of electric motorcycles in Kenya

The introduction of electric motorcycles in Kenya can be traced back to April 2019. This was during the 4th United Nations ( UN ) environmental assembly held in Kisumu City, Kenya. It was an electric mobility pilot programme by the energy regulatory commission (ERC), and the Kenya Power and lighting company (KPLC).

The pilot programme saw the deployment of 50 electric motorcycles donated by a Chinese company, TAILG. This pilot was primarily to create electric mobility awareness, and to provide data for policy formulation to the industry’s stakeholders.

This pilot, and the subsequent data that was collected opened doors to the high-potential African motorcycle market. Several startups seized the opportunity and ventured commercially into the production of electric motorcycles. A number of electric motorcycles prototypes were introduced and some went on to conquer the already thirsty market to become popular brands among the riders.

The remarkable motorcycle evolution history

The robust motorcycle industry has a rather long, and not-so-rosy history. They started off as bicycles in the 1960s through to the 1970s as the only available means of transporting smuggled coffee beans. 

The coffee beans were smuggled across the Kenya-Uganda border in what was then infamously referred to as the ‘black gold’ trade. A bicycle would use the back roads to transport half-filled bags of the precious coffee beans’ ‘at lighting speed’ to the required destinations.

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Later on, when the smuggling business died down, the bicycles were used for transporting goods and passengers across the border. This too was a lucrative business for people who needed to do cross-border trade but without the prerequisite papers. The cross-border mode of operation of these bicycles (border to border), gave rise to the now popular name, boda boda. 

The bicycles were gradually replaced by motorcycles. The motorcycles have eventually become the favourites for obvious reasons. They carry more luggage, are a bit faster, and can still manoeuvre the same back streets previously patronized by the bicycles. They continue to answer to the name boda boda, though they have spread to other parts of the region away from their traditional Kenya-Uganda border area of operation.

Patrons of towns and rural trading centers

The 2021 economic survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) placed the population of motorcycles in Kenya at 285,203 units. They took the lion’s share of the entire mobility system in the country. Additionally, over 90% of these motorcycles are in the public transport service patronising all the towns and rural trading centres.

This was largely made possible back in 2008 when the Kenya government zero-rated the import duty for motorcycles of up to 250cc. It made it possible to import motorcycles and sell them off at affordable prices to low-bracket earners. Several enterprises also availed hire purchase terms to the populace making it easier for many homes to own a motorcycle.

In the major towns, this mode of transport offered a reliable and efficient alternative amidst the incessant traffic snarl-ups. Additionally, the rural areas benefited immensely owing to the poor state of roads and an unreliable public transport network. It was also a welcome solution to the youth unemployment headache which was quickly turning into an insecurity and drug abuse problem.

Out of the frying pan into the fire?

As much as the massive uptake of motorcycles brought solutions and relief, it also came with a few downsides that had not been planned for. There was significant relief in the public transport sector, and the unemployment crisis pressure relatively eased off.

The huge and fast uptake of motorcycles definitely caught the relevant government agencies flat-footed. The necessary legal framework of controls and regulations was not sufficiently in place for this exponential sector growth. Processes such as registration, training of riders, and insurance cover were nowhere near optimum requirements. 

It’s not surprising that the official number of registered motorcycles in Kenya was just a matter of guesswork until 2020 when the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) conducted an official survey. Later, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) rolled out a mass registration of motorcycle dealers, owners, and riders.

The effects of omissions

The presence of unregistered motorcycles in Kenya brought a rise in criminal gangs and related crimes. It was practically impossible for the police service to make adequate follow-ups on the perpetrators even with first-hand information from the victims. Incidents of phone snatching, outright muggings, and abductions became rampant, especially in the major urban centres. Most of these incidents were done by bike-riding criminals who easily melted into the sea of motorcycles crisscrossing the breadth and width of the country.

Lack of proper training, in good road safety behaviour and adherence to traffic rules, for the riders was another grave omission. There was a surge in road accidents, related injuries, and deaths to riders, pillions, and pedestrians. This translated to financial pressure on motorcycle owners, riders, and the entire health sector.

The criminals had a field day while the victims bore the full brunt, both financially and healthwise. Innocent riders out to earn a clean coin were also caught up in the police dragnet and forced to pay for the sins of these omissions. The government spent a fortune in medical costs for the maimed, and of course, burials are not a cheap engagement on this side of the Sahara.

Environmental impact of motorcycles

On average, 99% of motorcycles on Kenyan roads were, and still largely are, Internal Combustion Engines (ICE). The rise in their numbers, obviously, translates to an increase in harmful gas emissions. The transport sector in Kenya is the leading culprit in harmful gas emissions. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) report says the estimated annual premature deaths in Kenya is 21,000.

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Remember, earlier in this article we saw that the motorcycle sector takes the lion’s share of the total registered vehicles in Kenya. This means that a significant share of greenhouse emissions comes from ICE motorcycles. 

Not a drop in the ocean

As much as motorcycles do not consume much fuel individually, the combined consumption of this sector is quite huge. This means more fuel imports to satisfy the immense needs, which translates to pressure on the foreign currency reserves since Kenya buys fuel in dollars (USD).

The transition to e-mobility will bring multiple benefits in several areas. One of them is the easing of pressure on the country’s foreign currency reserves and the subsequent financial stability. The second, and most important, is the scale-down in harmful gas emissions. The introduction of electric motorcycles in Kenya will mean less pollution and hence contribute positively to the global climate-change campaign.

Enter the electric motorcycles in Kenya

The 2019 electric mobility pilot programme opened doors for various startups to conduct individual pilots in Kenya. Some of these startups were foreign while others were the brainchild of the very enterprising Kenyans. Assembly workshops were set up in the country’s capital city, Nairobi. 

Robust dissemination of information about electric motorcycles was in the print and audio/visual media. Training workshops for the now largely regulated motorcycle transport industry were organised and motorcycles were available to select riders for real-time testing on the Kenyan landscape.

The ball was now rolling and the prospects were very promising even at this early stage. With the Kenyan government joining the push, It is just a matter of time before the electric motorcycles start edging their ICE counterparts off the Kenyan roads.

Is the transition worth it?

We can only answer this question from the financial implications’ perspective. We will briefly compare the energy consumption of both ICE and electric motorcycles, and how it impacts the pockets of riders or owners.

125 cc motorcycle

The average fuel consumption of a 125cc motorcycle is 1.3 litres to 2 litres per 100 km. This roughly translates to an average of 50 km/L. At the current rate of KES 195 for a litre of petrol, this means KES 195 gives you 50 kms.

150 cc motorcycle

This one averages around 2 litres to 3 litres per 100 km. A rough translation to 41 km/L. Applying the current price of petrol means KES 195 for every 41 km.

Electric motorcycle

The available motorcycles in Kenya can average 90 kms on a fully charged battery. A single full-battery charge is currently costing between KES 150 to KES 187 at the swap centres.

The average time spent at the swap station is 5 minutes, just about the same duration an ICE motorcycle spends at a petrol station.

Are the maths matching up so far?

Dealers in electric motorcycles in Kenya

ARC Ride

Manufacturers of the multi-functional electric motorcycle, Corbett. This motorcycle has a 60 km range with an average speed of 60 km/h. The payload is 200 kg. The Corbett boasts a sturdy 14” alloy frame and a 1.2 kW motor.


The brand name for their electric motorcycles is Ampersand. This Rwandan-based startup is already a popular name on the Kenyan market with over 1000 electric motorcycles on the Kenyan roads. 

The motorcycle packs a 67 Nm torque motor with top speeds of 80 km/h and a range of 72 km. They have invested heavily in swap stations around the country’s capital city, Nairobi.


Ecobodaa is undoubtedly one of the first entrants into the Kenyan market. They did extensive pilots on Kenyan roads and did the donkey’s work in information dissemination about electric motorcycles. The brand name is Ecobodaa.

The motorcycles pack a removable 72 v lithium battery with a range of 60 to 75 km. The average top speed for these motorcycles is 60 km/h. They also come with a pre-installed GPS tracker.

Fika Mobility

Fika Mobility invested over 18 months in studying the Kenyan market and motorcycle ecosystem. They engaged with over 200 motorcycle riders to understand their riding habits and pressure points.

They first piloted a motorcycle with a 2.5 kWh battery powering a 1.5 kW motor and an average range of 100km. Later, from the pilot data, they settled for the more compact 1.2 kWh battery.

The battery takes between 4 to 6 hours to fully charge. To mitigate this, they have invested in battery swap facilities across the country’s capital city, Nairobi.

Kiri EVs

Kiri EV is one of the successful ventures started and run by innovative Kenyan entrepreneurs. They initially put in a 12-month pilot with test runs offered to clients. 

They have three models in the 2-wheeler category already running on Kenyan roads. These models are the Funstar Scooter, Nomad, and Moran.

The electric motorcycles are equipped with a single battery which gives an average range of 70 km to 80 km and top speeds of 70 km/h. The Funstar Scooter can do top speeds of 80 km/h. They have the option of a second battery which can extend the range to 150 km.

Roam Electric

Roam Electric is a Swedish-Kenyan firm that deals in electric vehicle assembly and sales. Their electric motorcycle brand is known as Roam Air. Roam Electric, formerly Opibus Ltd, was founded in 2017 and has put up its East African headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

Roam Air has a dual-battery design for an extended range of 140 km, but it can still operate on a single battery with a range of 70 km. This electric motorcycle can hit top speeds of 90 km/h. The payload is 220 kg.


The market for electric motorcycles market in Kenya is ripe for electrification. Homegrown and other international brands have a whole cake before them. All that is needed is robust information dissemination to the thirsty market.

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