Buses with solar panels on their roofs and motorcycles with interchangeable batteries, African inventors have been developing concepts that benefit the environment, the native population, and the "Made in Africa" brand.
In a poor, rural area like Wedza in eastern Zimbabwe, a few tricycles can enact significant change. The electric car's rear half has a cargo space, while the front wheel might have been taken from a motorcycle. The hamba tricycles, which are used by the locals to transport people and products, have also served as mobile immunization clinics during the area's COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
The hamba is more than just a representation of development for chicken, horticultural, and tobacco farmer Susan Chapanduka. "To get to the market, we either used ox-drawn carts or wheelbarrows. Particularly for me, it was expensive and time-consuming. I had no ox-drawn cart of my own. I would therefore need to rent the cart "- Susan said.
Chapanduka's excursion to the market is now quicker and less expensive thanks to the hamba. She now has sufficient funds to cover her children's school expenses as well as fertilizer for her crops.
The non profit organization Mobility for Africa puts together the hamba in Zimbabwe's capital city of Harare. The company's founder, Shantha Bloemen, believes that the fight against climate change depends heavily on electric mobility. "You can truly alter rural places and establish really thriving local economies if you think about green and electric transport, which doesn't mean you have to import expensive polluting petrol," Bloemen said.
To show potential investors that the idea is workable, Mobility for Africa started its pilot phase in Wedza three years ago.
Small groups of women, including Susan Chapanduka, share each of the 50 tricycles. In addition to tiny charges for each battery charge, the monthly lease costs about $15 (€13.75).
Increasing use of electric vehicles
The hamba is not a unique instance. Many countries of Africa are seeing an increase in the use of various forms of electric transportation, though not necessarily the kind of vehicles being introduced in the Global North, where only the wealthy can buy them.
According to Marah Köberle, an expert on African mobility with the Siemens Foundation in Germany, economic factors are increasing the appeal of electric mobility in the continent. According to Köberle, "higher fuel prices, as well as decreased prices for batteries and solar PV panels, assist the trend toward e-mobility."
Particularly for short, rapid trips in many African cities, private passenger motorbikes are in high demand.
For instance, Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, has about 26,000 motorcycle taxis. By the end of the decade, the Rwandan government hopes to electrify 30% of its fleet, working with UN agencies to achieve its climate targets.
To replace bikes' outdated engines with electric gear, several firms have been established.
No service, no oil change
Rwanda Electric Mobility, one of the companies, has so far modified about 125 motorcycles. Maxim Mutuyeyezu, chief of the technical department, said: "You don't need oil; our motor is service free; you don't need to service the chain; it doesn't have chains. All those charges they are maintained by the rider."
Some drivers were able to boost their savings by 30% by avoiding the costs of motorcycles with internal combustion engines, according to Köberle of the Siemens Foundation, who oversaw a trial project utilizing electric motorcycles in western Kenya. Some of the riders are genuinely excited, she said, claiming that it's the first time in their lives they feel like they can save money.
Most electric motorbike initiatives in Kenya, Rwanda, and the surrounding area employ interchangeable batteries to prevent users from wasting time charging their vehicles. It takes about as long to fill a tank with gas as it does to swap out an empty battery for a full one at a designated swapping station.
For the benefit of riders, the batteries continue to be company property. The most expensive component of the motorcycle, according to Köberle, is still the battery. This lowers the price and lessens the danger to the economy from battery failure.
African-made solar-powered buses
However, it's not always practical or possible to switch out the batteries in larger cars. Because of this, the Ugandan business Kiira Motors developed another ground-breaking concept: employing solar power.
According to Allan Muhumuza, marketing director for Kiira Motors, "one of the beauties we have as a country is that we are located along the equator, and we receive sunshine eight hours regularly throughout the year."
The 49-seater bus can go up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) on a single charge from the solar panel on the bus's roof, which is sufficient for a typical day of operation.
Electric buses are relatively uncommon in Africa, nevertheless. Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, only recently placed its first two into operation.
The distribution will be more extensive in Dakar, Senegal. It's hoped that by the end of 2023, a new commuter bus system to the suburbs, with 140 buses, will relieve traffic congestion.
However, innovation is also taking place outside of the major cities. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) met businessman Mustapha Gajibo in his workshop in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, which lies in the country's northeast. His 12-person electric bus has a 200-kilometer range and solar panels as well.
The ambitions Gajibo has for his initiatives reach far beyond Maiduguri. In addition to Nigeria, he stated that his goal was to lead the globe in electric vehicle production.
Electric mobility has some obvious advantages because it produces no emissions, protecting both the environment and the local population's health. Marah Köberle, a mobility expert, sees still another benefit.
The opportunity to place a bigger emphasis on the "Made in Africa" brand arises from the change to e-mobility, she added.
The population of the planet is always growing. The global society must create contemporary, sustainable cities that can accommodate everyone. We need fresh, clever urban design that produces resilient, safe, affordable communities with healthy, inspirational living environments for all of us to survive and thrive. Traffic bottlenecks will be less frequent with fewer private vehicles on the road. As a result, even in crowded urban environments, people can travel farther and faster. Additionally, we can better protect our natural habitat if there are more open areas and highways. According to this example in Africa. By integrating more and more e-mobility, especially poorer people get the chance to make use of it. This helps regions in need in a lot of ways and also works on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.