from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
NAIROBI, (APA)– THE continent’s first solar-powered bus, whose production is set for 2018, has been hailed as major breakthrough towards Africa’s commitment to the United Nations global Agenda for Sustainable Development for 2030 and validated Uganda as ready for automotive manufacturing and engineering.
The innovation has been one of the highlights of the second session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2), at the just-concluded United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Headquarters in Nairobi.
Known as the Kayoola Solar Bus, it is a product of the Uganda-based Kiira Motors and a brainchild of the Makerere University under the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC), which is the investment arm of the Ugandan Government, as a presidential initiative for automotive manufacturing.
The Kayoola Solar Bus, produced in 2016 is one of the three concept vehicles produced by the Kiira Vehicle Technology Innovation Programme.
It is a 35-seater electric bus with zero tailpipe emissions, a range of 80 km, with latent range extension from the real-time charging enabled by the roof mounted solar panels.
One of its two batteries can be charged by solar panels on the roof which increases the vehicle’s 80km (50 mile) range.
The development of the Kayoola Solar Bus Concept represents the commitment of the Kiira Motors Project to championing the progressive development of local capacity for vehicle technology innovation, a key ingredient for institutionalizing a sustainable vehicle manufacturing industry in the East African country.
The solar bus, which makes the most of the abundance of sunlight in the country, is intended for urban areas than inter-city use because of the restrictions on the distance it can travel.
If it is mass produced, each bus would cost up to US$58 000.
Achim Steiner, the UNEP Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the UN, is among delegates that toured the Kayoola Solar Bus during a tour of the Sustainable Innovations Expo, held at the sidelines of the UNEA conference where the bus was on showcase, in addition to being the official green transport partner for the UN conference.
Steiner expressed excitement and pride to see 21st century mobility technology being put “on the road in Africa, by Africans.”
“I challenge local investors in to invest in the fast growing green economy in Africa, as is exhibited through the production of environmentally friendly vehicles,” said Steiner.
Paul Isaac Musasizi, the Chief Executive Officer Kiira Motors, lauded the endorsement of Kayoola Solar Bus by the UNEP.
He committed to further engage the government and private sector for further policy and investment commitment.
“We are happy to have Uganda globally relevant in the urban green mobility solutions conversation, as we plug into international collaborations in the vehicle production value chain to synergize,” Musasizi added.
It is envisaged the production of the environmentally-friendly bus will generate direct and indirect employment for 7 000 people.
“This will create employment for young people, as the region learns how to add value and grow the economy through increased export,” said Musasizi.
Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa, the Ugandan Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology.
The minister added the solar bus was a commitment by the country to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for mobility of the future, where urban areas will be less polluted, using clean energy readily available in Africa.
Among few countries producing the solar bus include Australia (since 2007), China (2012) and United States (2011) among others.
With production on course to start in two years, The Kiira Motors production plant will be situated at the Uganda Investment Authority Jinja Industrial and Business Park, which will be equipped to support the manufacture of up to 60 000 cars, comprising of Pick-ups, sedans, trucks and buses.
The solar bus will be third environmentally-friend vehicle under production at Kiira.
The KIIRA EV, a two-seater electric car was launched in 2011. The KIIRA EV SMACK, a five-seater hybrid electric sedan followed in 2014 and the Kayoola Solar Bus is the latest addition in 2016.
– CAJ News / APA