Uganda has officially launched the first ever solar-powered bus in Africa. The solar-powered bus was revealed in a colorful ceremony in the country’s capital, Kampala.
The launching ceremony of the bus was held at the Mandela Stadium in the district of Wakiso. Delegation from the Ugandan government attended and witness the launch. The prototype of the bus was driven publicly to show that the quest, which started in 2011, has been successfully completed.
The brain behind this groundbreaking initiative is the Ugandan automotive maker, Kiira Motors. Kiira Motors revealed that the bus will be called Kayoola.
Kayoola is a 35-passenger bus. It has electric power banks. One of its two batteries can be charged by solar panels on the roof, which increases the vehicle’s 80km range. Solar panels on the roof of the bus will top up the vehicle’s battery whenever the battery is running low.
The synthetic leather, tyres, steering wheel and software were imported from abroad. Apart from these parts, all other parts were made in Uganda. About 90% of the body material was said to have come from Roofing Uganda Limited. However, Kiira Motors’ envisions that by 2039, the company will be able to manufacture all the parts and assemble the vehicle in Uganda, without any external help.
According to Uganda’s New Vision Newspaper, the Kayoola bus project started in 2011 as part of the country’s initiative to explore the possibilities of using solar technology to support mass transportation in the country.
The project was also aimed at establishing vehicle manufacturing capabilities in Uganda for pickups, SUVs, sedans, light and medium duty trucks and buses. Officials have said this is expected to transform Uganda into a middle-income economy by 2040 “through providing a platform with high intellectual convergence of disciplines.”
Kiira Motors said it is now hoping to attract partners that can help manufacture the bus for the mass market in Uganda, and the rest of Africa. Sunshine is mostly available in Sub-Sahara Africa almost all year round. Observers have said it is refreshing for an African company to have such a vision.
Due to the restrictions on how far it can travel, the bus is intended for urban areas rather than inter-city use.
Since the launch, images of the bus have gone viral on social media. Many people around the African continent shared the good news, with many congratulating Kiira Motors, and urging the company to start mass production of the vehicle as soon as possible.
Chief Executive of Kiira Motors, Paul Isaac Musasizi, told the BBC in an interview that he had been humbled by the large and positive reaction to the test drive ceremony.
Mr Musasizi said people in Uganda are excited by the idea that country is able to produce the prototype of this beautiful and strong vehicle. He further added that it is his dream to help the country champion the automotive, engineering and manufacturing industries in the east African sub-region.
If it is mass produced, each bus would cost up to $58,000, which Mr Musasizi said is a competitive market price.
It is estimated that if the company begins mass production of the vehicle, it will create employment opportunities for more than 7,000 people in the country. It is hoped that mass production of the bus will begin by early 2018.
Kiira Motors grew out of a project at Uganda’s Makerere University. The University is said to be a shareholder in the company. Kiira Motors is also said to have received funding from the Ugandan government as part of the country’s Industrial Development Intervention through the Presidential initiative for Science and Technology Innovations.
Kiira Motors is planning another mega launch of the vehicle on February 16, in which the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, is expected to grace the occasion.
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