|Cutting fuel costs with innovative solar powered motorbikes
One of the key ambitions when the first PV cell was designed, was a world where solar powered vehicles outnumbered traditional, polluting vehicles. While an absolutely massive amount of time has gone into evolving solar power technology, solar transportation still seems somewhat out of reach for most people, but that is rapidly changing.
While solar transportation is popular in first world countries, the potential for solar powered vehicles within developing countries is colossal. Having to constantly fork out large amounts of their already thin income on fossil fuels causes immense strain on individuals struggling to make ends meet each month.
Three final year students at the University of Nairobi in Kenya have stepped up, developing Ecotran, a system that captures the sun’s energy and stores it in a portable battery. This battery is then used to charge a motorcycle’s electric motor.
Taxi motorbikes are a huge industry within Kenya, employing thousands of young people. This is where the students got their inspiration. Besides riders having to pay for their own fuel, many of them don’t actually own the bikes, but rather ride leased machines, adding an extra expense.
Motorbikes can currently run for 70km on a fully charged battery, although improving efficiency is an ongoing aspiration. The team was recently awarded $100 000 by the United States African Development Fund and Power Africa, which they will use to upscale their project, allowing its reach to expand.
The potential of solar transportation within South Africa is massive. Many jobs involve considerable amounts of driving, which can be a nightmare due to the constantly rising fuel prices. As a result of technological advances in solar efficiency, solar transportation is quickly becoming a financially viable solution for many.
While the Kenyan project focused on motorcycles, solar is already being used in South Africa to power a number of road vehicles across various industries.
Solar power also looks to revolutionise local public transportation, with a number of trains already being fitted with rooftop solar photovoltaic panels. While green energy transportation projects around South Africa may still be in their early days, the future is definitely bright, as government and large businesses begin to understand and capitalise on this fantastic energy solution.
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Soventix has played a significant role in developing a number of high output commercial solar systems around South Africa. We recently completed a 40.29 kilowatt-peak project at Quiver Tree in Stellenbosch, as well as a large scale PV system at ACA Threads, Cape Town.
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