Solar energy is the future; we just need to make it cheaper, says Ugandan President Museveni

In 2008, Vehicle Design Summit (VDS) Teams from 35 leading Research Universities built a 5 seater Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. Uganda’s Makerere University was the only African team and it made the continent proud by developing the Power Train and in-Vehicle Communication Network for electric vehicle Vision 200. This inspired the Vehicle Design Project aimed at applying contemporary technologies to develop sustainable transportation solutions for Uganda and Africa.

The project has gone a long way, and thanks to it, Uganda makes history today as the first African country to launch a locally made solar-powered bus. It called it the KAYOOLA.

The 35-seater bus can travel up to 50 miles at a stretch. It is powered by two batteries; one connected to solar panels on the roof and the other charged electrically. It takes just one hour to fully charge each battery.

solar-powered bus in Africa
The Kayoola solar-powered electric bus was launched today in Uganda

“The development of the Kayoola Solar Electric Bus concept represents the commitment of the Kiira Motors Project to championing the progressive development of local capacity for Vehicle Technology Innovation,” says the company CEO Paul Isaac Musasizi. He added that it is “a key ingredient for industrializing a sustainable Vehicle Manufacturing Industry in Uganda.”

Speaking to CNN last week, Musasizi said the country was making a business out of being on the equator where the sun is out most of the time.

State-owned Kiira Motors spent $140,000 to produce the Kayoola prototype. However, the price could go as low as $45,000 if mass-produced.

The East African country also plans to begin the commercial production of the Kiira EV SMACK in 2018. The car is an improved version of the Kiira EV car, the first product of the Vehicle Design Project, unveiled in 2011.

The Kenyan government had in 1986 initiated a similar project. Then president Daniel arap Moi asked the University of Nairobi to develop the vehicles. Five prototypes were made at the time and they were named Pioneer Nyayoattaining a speed of 120 km/h. Following the preliminary success, The Nyayo Motor Corporation was established to mass-produce the cars. However, lack of funds meant the car never entered into production.

Uganda will not allow this to happen to Kiira, which is gradually catching the world’s attention. The government has, therefore, set aside a scheme called Presidential Initiative on Science and Technology; Kiira Motors gets funding from this.

President Yoweri Museveni has declared continued support for Kiira Motors. He congratulated everyone involved in the project and stressed the importance of exploiting the energy from the sun.

“The amount of energy from the sun in a year is 50 times more than all hydropower stations in the world,” the president said at the launch, citing Chinese VP Li Yuanchao.

“Solar energy is the future. We just need to make it cheaper,” Museveni said.

The president also stresses the importance of education which he pointed out has made it possible for solar-powered bus to be produced. “We can use our scientists to develop our country like the Chinese and Soviets have done,” he said.

After his speech, Museveni who is running for re-election in Uganda’s presidential election to be held on February 18, rode in the Kayoola bus with his aides and the CEO of Kiira Motors, Engr. Musasizi.