(Thanks Charles Groves, for the original post).
Charles Ogingo, Robert Achoge and James Ogola – all final year students at the University of Niarobi, have built a system they call Ecotran, 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 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 center 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.
The students will lease the bikes to 40 riders who they have trained in road safety. Most motorcyclists in Kenya have no bikes of their own but ride leased machines. One taxi man used to ride a petrol motorcycle. He used to make 1,000 shillings ($9.60) on a good day, but would spend about 350 shillings on fuel and another 300 to lease the bike from its owner. Now it costs him 100 shillings (96 cents) to recharge the electric motorbike, saving him money even as he helps the environment by curbing pollution and climate-changing emissions. “The only challenge is that this electric bike has low acceleration and cannot work in hilly terrain,” he pointed out. (They are working on that, no doubt!)