Written by Theo Konig – November 04, 2021
Edited by Asaf Kedem
What started out as a research project in 2017 at the University of Linköping, Sweden has grown into one of Africa’s most promising electric mobility start-ups. The mission at the time was to study the implementation of electric vehicles in emerging markets. When the project began to take off, the founders Filip Lövström, Filip Gardler, Mikael Gånge, and Rawlings Nechavava decided to move the company headquarters to Kenya.
Today the company builds conversion kits to retrofit combustion engine vehicles into electric ones. Most recently, however, Opibus has expanded its operations and has begun producing its own electric motorcycles – the first electric motorbike made in Africa.
Opibus markets its motorcycle as-built, developed and designed for and in Africa. This means first and foremost putting an emphasis on affordability – an issue that was addressed by having the most basic model starts at $1,300. No oil, no spark plugs, no air filter, or timing belts also means fewer moving parts and therefore far fewer costs when it comes to repairs.
Opibus has also decided to establish a locally-sourced supply chain for parts. Not only does this promote the local economy, but it has the added advantage that parts can be obtained easily in the event of repairs. That being said, the motorcycle is built in a tough steel frame with minimal parts and is specifically made for all-terrain, including off-roading, meaning repairs should hopefully be minimal.
One interesting feature is the use of two removable batteries to power the motorcycle, as opposed to one large one. This gives users more flexibility with their charging options, as they can now swap out batteries whenever they want. Users can carry an extra battery, or they can remove empty batteries and let them charge while still powering the motorcycle on the remaining battery. The batteries are compact and robust and come with a portable charger, and each battery has a charge time from 0-100% of 4 hours.
Electric motorcycles in general are a very different ride compared to their combustion engine counterparts. To begin, electric engines have no need for either a gearbox or a clutch. This creates a much more intuitive motorcycle with braking and acceleration being the focal points. The other notable difference will be the near-instant torque, leading to a much more responsive acceleration.
Auto Trendy’s take:
Opibus certainly has a unique background story – one that immediately makes people root for its success. Beyond this, the company has diversified its activities in a way that should ensure its survival in the future. The company still maintains that the best way to electrify the African continent is to retrofit existing combustion vehicles. What’s incredible is that Opibus has still found the time to create its own vehicle – one that caters to its audience by having portable chargers, low costs, and light-weight, robust batteries. The African motorcycle market is an untapped market for the electric world, which should only bolster Opibus’ chances. The biggest challenge will be the development of an electrical charging grid in Kenya, and then in wider Africa – something that might be out of Opibus' control.