Student-Built Solar Motorbikes Hit the Road in Kenya

Three final year students of the University of Nairobi have launched Ecotran, the solar motorcycle system they built, which captures the sun’s energy, stores it in batteries, and uses it to charge a motorcycle’s electric motor.

Much of Western Kenya has no grid electricity, and the places that do face frequent power disruptions, so solar energy is a promising alternative, they say. The three students – Charles Ogingo, Robert Achoge and James Ogola –  have set up a “fuelling” station with 40 solar photovoltaic units, each generating 250 watts of electricity. The energy is stored in batteries before being transformed by powerful inverters into the alternating current needed by the motorcycle.

The motorbike uses a small portable battery which, fully charged, can run for 70 kilometres (40 miles), after which it must return to the station to be recharged while another charged battery is fitted to the bike.

The students, who have set up a company called Pfoofy Solar Ltd, put together their system in 2014 at a climate change innovation centre at Strathmore Business School in Nairobi, where they had been sent to give practical form to their ideas.

After successfully trying out the Ecotran technology on three locally bought motorcycles in Kisumu County’s Nyakach area early this year, the young innovators are now expanding the project, and powering 40 more bikes.

“We were awarded $100,000 by the United States African Development Fund and Power Africa for the ingenious innovation. It is this money that we are now using to upscale the solar project,” said Pfoofy Solar manager Achoge.

The students will lease the bikes to 40 riders who they have trained in road safety.

Taxi motorbikes are a big industry in Kenya, employing thousands of young people. The World Health Organization estimates that between 2005 and 2011, motorcycle registrations in Kenya increased almost 40-fold, and that by 2011 motorcycles made up 70 percent of all newly registered vehicles in the country.

Source – REUTERS

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