Solar-powered buses redefining public transportation in Uganda
KAMPALA -- The term “kayoola” once referred to an old-fashioned wagon train people used in the 1980s for transportation between their homes and shopping centers in Kampala. Today it refers to an innovative coup d’etat that will make public transportation in Uganda’s capital city the envy of the entire world.
Kiira Motors’ Kayoola Solar-Powered Bus was introduced to the world last month. It is the first of its kind on the entire continent of Africa. The prototype Kayoola is outfitted with 12 solar panels with a total output of 1,320 watts. The bus also contains two 384 V, 90 AH, 35 kWh lithium ion battery banks, each containing 120 cells. Despite the long rainy seasons in Kampala, sunshine is ever-present, which makes the 35-passenger Kayoola a perfect mass transit solution.
“The use of private mobility automobiles is significant in [Uganda’s] cities, placing a big traffic burden on the limited road infrastructure,” said Paul Isaac Musasizi, CEO of Kiira Motors. “The Kayoola Solar Bus prospects a green, clean and noise-free future transport solution for a busy city like Kampala and other urban centres in Africa.”
Kiira Motors was born from the Vehicle Design Summit organized by MIT in 2007. It called on 31 universities across the globe to create a five-seat hybrid electric vehicle for markets in India. Makerere University, Uganda’s largest institute of higher learning, was the only African university to participate. Its responsibility in the project was to design and integrate low-power electronics and data networking systems for the vehicle. The Vision 200 was the end result of the project.
The Vision 200 in Turin, Italy 2008.
This extracurricular activity for engineering students at Makerere was made into a permanent science and technology innovation program funded by the government of Uganda in 2010. The program sought to become the first university on the African continent to design and build an electric vehicle; the Kiira EV Proof of Concept (POC). The Presidential Initiative for Automotive Manufacturing incorporated Kiira Motors from the program in 2014. The company plans to start mass production of SUVs, sedans and trucks for the East African Community by 2018. But its goals do not stop there.
“The Kiira Motors Corporation Complex in the city of Jinja will create over 12,000 manufacturing jobs and 2,000 more jobs in operations,” Musasizi said. “The KMC will contribute to the Ugandan National Government’s drive to reduce poverty and bring about socio-economic transformation by creating a number of direct and indirect employment opportunities throughout the local, regional and national landscape.”
Musasizi had never heard of Local Motors before this interview, but was intrigued by the idea of direct digital manufacturing (DDM) for rapid prototyping and the possibilities of our co-creation platform.
“We shall investigate the plausibility of 3D-printing technology for mass production,” he said. “This would be especially useful when working on concept vehicles for which 3D-printing will be the best approach to make a limited number of parts.”
The prototype Kayoola costs about $142,000 to produce. But Musasizi said the price would be significantly lower (around $50,000 each) if the buses are mass produced.
Photo credits: Kiira Motors on Facebook