Africa is known for its abundant commodities and also for its reliance on them. With turbulent commodity markets shocking the continent, there is one commodity it can rely on; Sunlight.
Solar power is still far from being the perfect solution to the worlds energy needs, but there seems to be further innovation everyday. From the Solar Sister project, to large scale solar plants popping up across the continent. One interesting project I have recently come across is the solar bus in Uganda. It has been billed by Kiira, its Ugandan manufacturers, as the first of its kind in Africa. The Kayoola is powered by solar power on its roof and also has the possibility to be charged from the mains. The battery, when fully charged gives the bus a range of 80 km, with the solar power supplementing the stored energy; more than enough for city transportation.
This bus could revolutionise travel in Africa. There are the obvious examples of lowering air and noise pollution. This innovation could also lower congestion in cities, Ugandan authorities say that “the Kayoola can help solve Kampala’s traffic jams”, and, as the energy being used is sustainable, bring the prices down for customers.
If this technology can be extended to work in cars and mini buses, which roam the streets delivering people to their destinations in many parts of the continent, an African city would have a completely different atmosphere. The stress of getting from place to place in many of the continents cities can be enormous, and an a big burden on time management, as well as financial management. In my experience, the number one excuse for people being late for meetings was the traffic. Reducing congestion could remove this excuse. It is also, in many circumstances, except for those with the luxury of air conditioned cars, very uncomfortable getting around. With the heat sometimes unbearable and with the upkeep of many vehicles limited, sitting in a traffic jam in a tin can, surrounded by exhaust fumes does not make travelling a pleasurable experience.
Solar transportation, when further developed, could offer solutions for freight companies bringing down costs substantially. With electric cars also gaining popularity and becoming more efficient, a solar solution for charging them could also transform Africa’s transport system. I envisage a system where batteries are pre-charged via solar energy, and cars pick them up in the same way they replace their fuel currently.
The Kayoola is still quite a way off from driving around the streets of Uganda, with 2018 the aim to roll them out, but could this be the start of the solar revolution in Africa?