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Published on February 6th, 2016 | by James Ayre


Solar-Powered Electric Bus From Uganda

February 6th, 2016 by  

Originally published on EV Obsession.

The Ugandan company Kiira Motors recently showed off what it claims to be the first solar-powered bus in Africa — the Kayoola prototype solar-electric bus — in the capital city of Kampala, according to recent reports.

The prototype utilizes two batteries — one of which can be charged by the solar photovoltaic (PV) panels located on the roof — to provide a range of over 80 kilometers (50 miles). The more that these panels are able to recharge the connected battery while in use (depending on the weather primarily), the greater the range will be above the 80 kilometers mark, of course.

Solar bus uganda

The company is the result of a project at Uganda’s Makerere University (now a shareholder), and is currently looking for backers in order to mass manufacture the prototype. The company has reportedly been the recipient of some government money to date.

BBC News provides some specifics:

Kiira Motors’ chief executive Paul Isaac Musasizi told BBC News that he had been “humbled” by the large and positive reaction to the test drive. People have been excited by the idea that Uganda is able to produce the concept vehicle, or prototype, and Mr Musasizi said he wanted it to help the country “champion the automotive, engineering and manufacturing industries” in the region.

He also hopes that it will generate employment, predicting that by 2018, more than 7,000 people could be directly and indirectly employed in the making of the Kayoola. But backing from international companies, which make vehicle parts, is essential for the project to take off. The vision is that by 2039 the company will be able to manufacture all the parts and assemble the vehicle in Uganda.

Solar bus kiira motors

As one can probably guess, judging by the range involved, the prototype — a 35-seater — is intended for use in urban areas, rather than as an inter-city bus. The motivation for using solar panels is seemingly to lower fuel costs, and also to increase independence from the (not always reliable) grid.

The bus is expected to run ~$58,000 if mass produced — which is a competitive price for the market, according to Mr Musasizi.

Image Credit: Kiira Motors

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Brian

    This is a great idea. I think cars could also be solar, if we reduce the weight. The solar powered electric ELF, made in Durham, NC would be a great replacement for dirty gas cars. If the speed limits in cities were reduced to a safer 30 MPH, the ELF which is a velomobile, and recharges in the sun, via it’s solar panel, and requires no insurance, registration, or license, would save drivers enormous amounts of money. Other electric cars, like the Chevy Bolt, that will go 200 miles to a charge could be used for long distance travel. Most car trips are less than 6 miles, so the ELF would be perfect for most short distance commutes. Go to the Organic Transit website. Although at $5,000 the velomobile is expensive, the price could come down through mass production, in the same way batteries and solar panels are dropping in price. Of course used Mitsubishi Imeav’s at $7,000 would be a far superior buy, the price could come down to $1,000 in the future, making it a much cheaper alternative to the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi Imeav, and other electric cars.

    • Jens Stubbe

      Kampala has nearly perfect insolation very near equator http://www.gaisma.com/en/location/kampala….

      A standard bus has 13 x 2,5 = 32 m2.
      Standard modules are 1,62 x 100 = 1,62 m2, which leaves room for 16 standard moduls with just over 25 m2.

      Range is 80 km.

      The bus data sheet is here http://kiiramotors.com/kayoola.pdf

      Sadly the solar modules only deliver 1,3 kW, so the range is only extended by roughly 5% in sunny hours.

      If they went all in with super solar cells and custom integration they could extend the range more.

  • sjc_1

    Obviously you need a solar field to charge the bus to get somewhere, but they have plenty of sun.

  • JamesWimberley

    $58,000 for a bus is incredibly cheap. BYD’s goes for $350,000 IIRC, though the prices in actual sales deals are confidential and no doubt less.
    The solar roof is a gimmick. Buses run on fixed routes of known distances. You would be mad, even in rural Africa, to trust to good weather to provide a service. Better to set up a fixed farm on the garage roof to supply the battery chargers.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Best place for them is the roof where they extend the life of the batteries by reducing the load on them. Of course, on the production model they’d want the PV to be integrated into the roof to save on weight. Just using roof panels like this would add the weight of three large passengers. In Australia rooftop solar panels would be used to offset the air conditioning load so the range wouldn’t take a huge hit in summer. I can’t see an air conditioner on this bus, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have one. (Although at $58,000 there is a good chance it doesn’t.)

      • max0

        There is absolutely no need for conditioning in Uganda, the windows do

  • Martin

    Would it be great if another bus manufacture partner with them and produce that bus type in Uganda as well as off shore for other places.
    What could be better for urban transit than another emission free bus!

  • Kevin McKinney

    I wish them luck. Automotive startups are highly risky, and I can only imagine that that’s exacerbated by development issues in a city like Kampala. But it could be incredibly helpful if they do manage to bring the project off.

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